By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
For most cities, getting the fake shuttle would have been an honor, but this was Houston, Space City, the home of Johnson Space Center manned space flight. For more than 50 years, this was where astronauts trained, where missions were controlled. NASA was the leader in space exploration, and JSC was at the center of NASA. In 1961, President John F. Kennedy declared that NASA would have astronauts on the moon within a decade, and the agency made it happen in less than ten years. Now NASA has become a space program without direction, and JSC has become a shadow of itself.
Johnson Space Center was once the vibrant focus of a national space program that was going to see people on Mars before the end of this century. But manned space exploration, the thing in which Johnson specializes, has been sidelined in favor of targeting private companies like SpaceX to develop commercial space travel. Meanwhile, the funding and the bigger, choice projects are going to other centers that have more political cachet with the White House, like Kennedy Space Center in Florida and Marshall Space Center in Alabama. "Johnson used to be the place you wanted to be. If you wanted to work at the top of the space program, that was where you went," said one former NASA employee. "Now there's nothing going on there, and people are leaving in waves."
See what's going on at Johnson Space Center today in our slideshow, "What Remains at Johnson Space Center."
President Barack Obama canceled Constellation, former President George W. Bush's initiative to send astronauts to the moon. At the same time, he allowed the space shuttle program to end and started pouring a chunk of NASA's budget into developing commercial space flight. In the past few years, NASA's budget has been repeatedly slashed, some programs have been ended without warning, and others haven't received promised funding.
Elon Musk, the founder of SpaceX, has declared that his company is the future of space exploration. He is going to transport astronauts to the International Space Station, then to the moon and finally to Mars. He has said commercial spaceflight is the future. However, when Obama announced NASA would be focusing on commercial spaceflight, retired veteran astronauts Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan spoke out against that decision. The trio said the decision made no sense and would waste years of already completed work and $10 billion already invested in Constellation. Private enterprise would take longer to get to the same point and then ahead, they argued.
The official word from Johnson Space Center is that the facility is more relevant than ever. It has people working on robotics and perfecting Orion, the craft that will supposedly take astronauts to an asteroid in the 2020s. And Houston officials express no doubt that the center will continue to be a vibrant part of the city's identity and industry.
But there are longtime observers who see a different path. There are fewer employees buzzing around Johnson's massive campus in Clear Lake. Roughly half the buildings at the center have been torn down or consolidated in the past couple of years. "These aren't the signs of a business that is expanding," former JSC director George Abbey said. The center's very identity and purpose are being lost, according to these people. The entire space program is rudderless, Abbey said, lacking in bold leadership and without a clear direction. "Kennedy understood the value of a show, of making a point. Humans to the moon in ten years, and that would show the world that we were leaders. There wasn't national consensus, but the country wanted to show we could beat the Russians, and the country adopted that goal and we did it."
Now the United States is dependent on Russia to get our astronauts to the International Space Station and is looking to commercial companies like SpaceX to provide the next craft to send astronauts into space from the United States. And Johnson Space Center is being lost in the shuffle.
See what's going on at Johnson Space Center today in our slideshow, "What Remains at Johnson Space Center."
On the third floor of the Christopher C. Kraft Mission Control Center at Johnson Space Center is a cavernous room that looks exactly the way it did in the 1960s. It stands empty now, a museum piece preserved to show tourists what it looked like when space launches were conducted in the days of Apollo and the early years of the space shuttle. Once the room was a hive of activity, with flight controllers sipping coffee and exhaling plumes of cigarette smoke as they oversaw missions.
Once we had the greatest space program in the history of Mankind but thanks to Obama and his DemocRATS all we have now is " Muslim" outreach.
this article seems to have a political agenda. The facts are way off base. The loss of the Suttle program is presented as a bad thing yet each launch was costing us $750 Million to $1 Billion dollars... And that excludes the cost to develop the system in the first place.
NASA is in trouble not because the US is not funding it correctly but because they pay too much for their technology. NASA spent about 6 Billion to build the Aries 1 Launcher based on shuttle technology... SpaceX built a simular size rocket and space craft for about $1 Billion.
We have to find a new way to get to orbit that we can afford!
Years ago, Texas Monthly did a story on the space program. The funding has always been sparse, and there's no "space race" to goose the funding. (Reagan's Star Wars is now a dim memory.) It's more of a Alamo like attraction that people might look at out of curiousity sake.
There are so many things wrong with this article. Very poorly researched. It seems like the author got input from a teabagger. The most obvious issues with this article:
1) Half the buildings on site are not torn down. Some are being refurbished such as Bldg 12. Some are having foundation work performed. The bldg 45 library is either being refurbished or destroyed. There might be one or maybe two that are being torn down, and for good reason, but half? Come on. That is just factually incorrect.
2) There are 3 Mission Control Centers. One is on display only. It is designated as a historic bldg. This is the center that was used for the Apollo missions and early Shuttle missions. One is for Space Station. It is used 24/7. And one is for the new vehicle Orion and is currently being used for simulations.
3) Bush canceled the shuttle as part of Constellation. Kay Bailey Hutchinson authored the bill. Obama extended the program for 3 years.
4) Constellation, much like Space Station Freedom was an overly bloated, unrealistic, and under funded fiasco. It was focused on sending man to the Moon, Mars, Jupiter, and anywhere else there was money to be spent. It was doomed from the start. It deserved to be canceled.
5) Unfortunately for the JSC community, we do not have congressional representation that is willing to work with the Administration. Pete Olson, Steve Stockman, Cruz, and Cornyn are more concerned with Obama's birthplace than working with him to secure long term funding and maybe a shuttle at Space center Houston. they want to kick Obama in the nuts then wonder why JSC is getting crapped on. Dont blame Obama or our elected officials. Blame yourself for electing them.
6) Bush never visited NASA as Governor or President except to mourn the deaths of a crew.
7) Musk and all the millionaires in the world can talk about going to Mars but the bottom line is that it will cost hundreds of billions and will never recoop the investment. A mission to Mars is currently unachievalbe without major advances in technology and a boatload of money.
8) Musk and company are shooting their mouths off about the private sector going into space, but where are they getting the money to do so? You guessed it, NASA, the government. If Musk was really serious he would give up the government handout and spend his own *&^damn money.
The article smells of sour grapes, poor research or rotten teabags. I am betting on rotten teabags.
@allen.richards Wow. Where do you find that reply? In Tea Bag Monthly? Can't you come up with something original for once?
@johncoby @allen.richards Since I am not a TEA party member you can refrain from the references. Perhaps I should have been more specific. He defunded the Constellation project in support of the Heavy lift program. The CxP in the opinion of many was critical to keeping us in the game. The Heavy lifting program is at least a decade away and maybe never happen at all. In the meantime you can bet Russia, India, China, France and Japan will become the leaders in Space while we will be but a footnote.
There's a lot of not seeing the forest for the trees here, along with parochialism.- worrying about JSC when there are larger fish to fry.
Problem One is getting people to ISS without having to pay Russia $450,000,000 for Soyuz rodes each contract cycle, a number that always goes up by double dogit percentages. Constellation, or now SLS, and Orion will not fix this as their per-launch costs are too high and they're overkill for the job - almost like hunting rabbits with a howitzer.
This is where Commercial Crew comes in, and especially SpaceX since they're already flying an all-American made rocket with Falcon 9 and have an actual production line producing Dragon spacecraft. It's not fully outfitted for humans yet, but those changes go live in the next year with 2 major milestones in the next several months.
Boeing and Sierra Nevada also have affordable spacecraft in the mix, and both of these can also fly on Falcon 9 or Atlas V.
Problem Two is the RD-180 Russian engine used in the venerable Atlas V. It's clear that Russia is willing to use it as a political football, they've threatened to withhold it several times before Crimea.
If we lose Russian access to RD-180 it would take several years to start production here, and $billions in funding. Lots of handwringing about no Amerocan alternative, bit everyone ignores that SpaceX starts component tests next month at NASA Stennis of the Raptor methane fueled engine. At 1,000,000 lbf it's the basis of a 9 engine super-heavy launcher, and definitely an RD-180 alternative. All on SpaceX's dime.
To be fair, we have something that's a lot better than a Shuttle, even though few seem to appreciate it. The Saturn V on display is the only one out of the remaining three that was intended for an actual mission - Apollo 18. The Saturn V displays in Huntsville and the Kennedy Space Center are partially made up of test stages/mockups. Ours was intended to be flight-ready and, in my opinion, is a far, far better thing to have.
Most people today weren't even alive when we were flying Saturn V's
This article is utter trash, except to make apparent a delusional subculture of parochial paranoid and antagonistic shuttle/JSC groupies.There was inherent change in the Shuttle model ending and a Constellation/Shuttle-derived exploration model starting up, and this article lays the blame for the inherent differences to come on a innocent program that is delivering superior results at a bargain pricetag compared to what it replaced.
Some things that stand out:
1. Elon Musk is an American citizen.
2. The Constellation program would have itself cancelled the Shuttle program and relied upon the Russians for ISS transport until the Ares 1 and Orion were fully developed, resulting in a lengthy gap no different than what we are experiencing.With its delays it would not have become operational until 2017 at best and for sums larger than is being spent on Commercial Crew.Its operational tempo would have been much less than the Shuttle program; that is inherent in the changeover from the Shuttle to a Constellation/Shuttle derived exploration oriented model which will experience a lower tempo of missions due to their high expense.
The Russians were providing crew services during the Shuttle years as well since the Shuttle could not perform lifeboat duty, and ceasing buying flights from the Russians will only occur when a domestic transport becomes available that has that capability, which the Commercial Crew program is being developed for, and will have been the quickest route to get to that capability.Commercial space is not the reason flights are being bought from the Russians, in fact, it is the reason that those purchases will be displaced and come to an end.
Obama/Commercial space is being used as a scapegoat for decisions that were already inherent.
3. 6 billion dollars has not been spent on Commercial Crew, only a fraction of that, and SpaceX has only received a fraction of that.Commercial Crew has been consistently underfunded according to its funding requests, the result of which has been to delay it coming online.You want to stop buying flights from the Russians?Then stop complaining about Commercial Crew and underfunding it.
4. The Constellation program never ended: it was transformed into the Shuttle derived SLS/Orion program, and all your dissatisfaction with the current reality is due to it alone, not commercial crew.Most of Shuttle money went to the SLS/Orion program which has consumed something like 12 billion dollars so far and will consume even more tens of billions in the years ahead.JSC associated politician Hutchinson and her staff were the key instigator of that program. She and them were not interested in a proper exploration program that would have benefited JSC as well, but in continuing the graft inherent in the existence of the Space Shuttle program and making sure its corporate and career beneficiaries would keep on receiving graft at the expense of the space program and its objectives. It is the 800 foot Gorilla that is absent in your whining about current malaise. SLS/Orion is so expensive it has crowded out any expansive exploration program use of them.And it's a bit rich to complain that MSFC and KSC are getting work under that program when that was inherent in its creation.This article also ignores the boondoggle of the Orion program, JSC's pet project, which itself is being funded at sums greater than the entire commercial effort and won't be ready for flight until much after it, after 16 years and 16 billion dollars in spending.
5. This article singles out SpaceX to scapegoat but says
nary a peep about Boeing, or that Boeing is receiving tens of billions of
uncompeted SLS work as a result of being given special preference in legislation written by JSC related pols. The real motive behind much of the hatred toward SpaceX is that it is a competitor to Boeing and is outperforming it, and they want to lock out the spectre of SpaceX legitimately competing with it.
6. The Commercial Crew
program is servicing ISS, which is a large program that JSC is involved
with. Its success helps that end.
Truly an awful article that scapegoats commercial space for problems that are a result of the poor and parochial judgement of JSC associated people and lack of understanding that there would be changes to come as a result of the switch to a Constellation/Shuttle-derived exploration oriented track.
These JSC people immersed in the shuttle program world couldn't properly comprehend the reality inherent in that program ending or the necessary changes inherent in switching over to an exploration oriented model based upon the Constellation/Shuttle-derived and heap blame on a good program like commercial crew while blatantly ignoring their own excess and insular hypocrisy. It's a shame this bad attitude reflects poorly on the entire JSC culture and is indicative of it.
@allen.richards @libs0n -- Look up Sunk Cost. They did not throw away that money they stopped flushing it down a hole. Constellation was supposed to cost less money due to useing existing technology -- instead it has cost more
SpaceX built the F9 and Dragon Space craft for way less money then the Aries 1 and it is a new design and with engine out capability that the Aries 1 did not have.
@libs0n I think you are mistaken about the Constellation Program. Obama clearly defunded the program in favor of the Heavy lift program thereby throwing away over $10 Billion while taking us out of the Space game for at least a decade if not forever. That is the opinion of many including former Astronauts Armstrong and Lovell.
He hasn't visited the space center because he HATES Texas. He HATES our way of life. He HATES the fact that no matter how much he tries to undercut us, we still persevere. I am as liberal as you can get and I despise this president.
@dpm1937 I am sure the President could care less about your way of life. He probably thinks most of you all are ignorant people and somehow he is proven right every day.
@dpm1937 As Liberal as you can get -really? Let me guess, your "way of life" includes denying health care to the poor and making voting as difficult as possible for minorities and immigrants...
Calling Lyndon Johnson's destruction of the single and successful Alabama site under Wernher von Braun and the germans "horsetrading" might be understatement. He and his union friends in Washington single handedly destroyed NASA before it even started going to the moon.
Von Braun could keep the fluid rockets (Saturn) even if all his new managers favored solid rockets (remember the failed shuttle program). But destroying Alabama, moving the technicians to California and setting up Houston was the start of the downfall of NASA.
Why do you think Musk is building fluid rockets? Braun was right after all and his program did work.
Why do think Musk is cheap and successful, and NASA is not? There are management problems at the top of NASA. Brownsville will be much better than Houston, as it does not have the NASA overhead.
Houston was the problem, not the solution.
@reini.urban Whatever it is you are taking, you gotta ease of of it!!
NASA's image went from heroic pioneers to money pit, sort of a billion dollar ATM for the politically connected contractors.
The press releases got to be laughable, "Only the third time the Shuttle has landed on the second Tuesday of the month!" I heard a rumor that they had hired a promo person from the Home Shopping Channel. True or not, it shows how many people felt, i.e. we were being "pitched".
You can't call the President a Kenyan then complain that he hasn't come to JSC. It's like kicking someone in the balls then wanting to shake hands. That is what our elected officials have done since he took office. And you wonder why we didn't get a real Shuttle? Really?
P.S. the only time W came to JSC was to speak after an accident. Ditto for Reagan.
@johncoby Where in the world do you see "Kenyan" in the article?
@johncoby President thin-skinned was never called a Kenyan by any local politicians I know of (however his father rightfully was) He remains an embarrassment from his perpetually thin resume to his phony Nobel peace prize to disastrous foreign and domestic policies and of course his total disdain for our space program as evidenced by his desire to make " Muslims feel good about space" silliness. What is even more cynical was that he was doing this as we was turning his back on NASA.
@boundtoolong Nice come back! What are you? 12? :)
As a few have pointed out, lots of inaccuracies in the article:
1) Half the buildings are NOT nor are there plans for them to be torn down. There are some that have been torn down, but they have been replaced by new buildings, with more new buildings coming.
2) You mentioned multiple times that NASA is reliant upon the Russians to ferry astronauts to ISS, but fail to mention that the Soyuz has been bringing ISS crews up and down since 2003.
3) The NBL has NEVER been used to train astronauts in how to operate "on other worlds" It's used for zero G training, not terestial of any kind.
@barleyvine Back up your "inaccuracies" with facts from reputable sources, not the "few that have pointed out". Furthermore, we don't know if the new buildings are going to be used to further space exploration or for some frivolous purpose that only waste American taxpayers' money.
@boundtoolong Sorry, there are people in this comment that have pointed out the inaccruacies in the article. Thought that was obvious if you read them all. As for reputable sources, prove to me that "half" the buildings at JSC have been torn down.
As for new ones, I would think research labs, Astronaut rehab, Astronaut quarters, medical clinic's are all useful.
@boundtoolong @barleyvine also, go read Nasawatch for some more thoughts on inaccuracies within the article: http://nasawatch.com/archives/2014/04/theyre-still-dr.html#comments
@barleyvine @boundtoolong Those that have pointed out inaccuracies have not proven anything - just like you - isn't it obvious?
You also contradict yourself with your new comment. In your initial comment, you specifically said that there "are some [buildings] that have been torn down"; this is according to your few questionable sources. You obviously believe it as long as it's not pointed out by me or the author.
As far as the purpose or usefulness of the new buildings, you "think" does not mean it is a fact. You need a dictionary.
Finally, question all your sources, not just me or the author. You're not consistent and you don't support your arguments very well.
@boundtoolong OK, a few being torn down and replaced, is very different that "half the buildings at JSC. You know that ther are more than just a few buildings at JSC. As for sources? I don't need any. I work at JSC, and I can tell you, that I don't see buildings being torn down all over place. Good grief.
@barleyvine @boundtoolong I work at JSC and I can tell you that there are no buildings just being torn down. They are old and are being renovated. Building 20 (office and training space) is our newest building that is meant to be a place that temporarily house office space while other buildings are being renovated. Building 45 is getting a new addition of the clinic at the moment. The old clinic is next to be renovated into usable office space. Building 12 (training space) was recently brought down to it's structure and completely renovated.
What I'm looking forward to is the Houston Space Port which is a joint project that Houston just signed off on exploring which will be located at Ellington Field by Sierra Nevada. It has the backing of the FAA and hopefully will be one of two take off locations for the Dream Chaser vehicle (the other being Florida). It may the landing location of most missions starting in 2017 considering the astronauts live here.
@sguzman32 @boundtoolongDreamChaser will not take off from Houston, only land to deliver ISS astronauts back to JSC. Trajectory from Houston goes over heavily populated areas, so FAA would not likely approve rocket launches. The Spaceport may eventually have horizontal to space trips such as virgin galactic or Xcor
Wow, did anyone actually visit JSC to write this story? Half the center is not shut down/consolidated.. The majority of the consolidations I've seen is to put folks in newer and more energy efficient buildings that have been built over the last 8 years or so. In addition this article barely touched on the biggest thing going on at JSC, the International Space Station program is based here! We have a national lab up there in space right now doing amazing research!! Yes, we have lost funding and it would be great if we would actually get to follow thru with new programs rather than having them shut down due to budget constraints.. but ISS is now complete and still up there 24/7! It's sad that none of these "poor NASA/poor JSC" articles ever discuss all the GREAT things still going on.. we need to reinvigorate the next generation about the potential rather than letting them think that NASA is out of business... far from it!
First point: this article is factually inaccurate and biased towards a very narrow - minded perspective. It gives almost no mention of the Commercial Crew program - even though Boeing's is headed in Houston, does not mention companies such as Paragon that are supporting commercial crew companies and distorts how much has been spent by NASA on commercial crew - far less than $6B-without crediting the resources being contributed by the company investors - greatly magnifying the benefit of NASA's investment.
Second: Wake up Texas Republicans (probably a redundant phase these days) - who sent Ted Cruz to Washington? What about the useless nut-job who represents JSC's district, Steve Stockman? Contrast these extreme posers and others in the delegation with the effective representation provided by Senators Shelby (R-AL) and Mikulski (D-MD); their Centers get plenty of political support and effective representation as well.
Note that Shuttles used to fly three to five times a year with up to seven crew per mission - no wonder we needed a big astronaut office; now, JSC is in responsible for a nearly $4B budget for the international Space Station - which has two or three Americans onboard at any time for six months and soon, possibly for a year each. What's the point of a large astronaut class given the current mission plan? How many astronauts do we need now for a 2030-ish Mars mission? Get over it - JSC is an operations center not a development or research site.
Finally, while considering Texas politicians, which Texan President and former two term Governor only visited JSC once? Yup - GW Bush; and that visit was just for the funeral of the Columbia crew. He was also the one who initiated Constellation but whose OMB office refused to put the extra monies originally promised to make it happen. No bucks, no Buck Rodgers - its still true.
This is a very alarmist article but is closer to reality than we might think at first.
For an example, let's think about the innovative companies out there - for instance the ones that build CubeSats. Where are they located? California mostly with some all over the place like Kentucky. Lots of foreign developers build them, there has been a Lithuanian CubeSat. Clear Lake should have dozens of innovative companies - with all of the talent that was here. Houston should have several companies with all of the related talent. We have NONE. We do have NanoRacks - which was founded in Florida and who's leadership resides in Washington, DC.
But we have university researchers here such as the Rice Space Institute, what have they done? What satellites have they built, what conferences have they hosted? None.
Many of the trained, talented people moved away from this area and are now the people helping run SpaceX, DigitalGlobe, etc etc.
SpaceX, no shuttle and Congress denying necessary funds to the agency. That's pretty much it. Don't blame Johnson SC or NASA. Its an unfortunate meeting of private sector progress and government not giving a crap.
"At the same time, he allowed the space shuttle program to end..."
Politics aside, that's a complete lie. Bush ended the shuttle program two years before Obama even decided to run for office. Even if Obama had decided to revive the shuttle program the day he took office, the shuttles would probably still be grounded because of the lack of parts from the production lines that had been shut down years before. You also seem to forget that even if Constellation had continued the first manned flight wasn't even scheduled to launch until 2015.
@gezabrut-2011 You say "Politics aside" then you proceed to compare Bush and Obama and running for office. Are you confused?
Additionally, the fact that the launch was expected in 2015 is not the point; the point is that it's now cancelled (regardless of the date). Stop making excuses for decisions that you haven't made.
you actually read my message instead of making it up - I did not
compare Bush to Obama. Just stating the fact - you can't blame a person
for something when he wasn't even there.
The Constellation program, well that's a whole different issue...I think largely the feeling is that the program was not successful because it was never properly funded - you can blame Bush, Obama AND Congress for that one.
So starving the agency from funds that needs in order to accomplish its goals has been going on for a long time - plenty of blame to go around.
Constellation's former timeline is exactly the point - this article is implying that because Constellation was cancelled, JSC is laying off workers and knocking down buildings. The author also bemoans the fact that we are dependent on the Russians for manned launches. If Constellation had been allowed to continue that would still be the case - as mentioend first launch was to be 2015 and routine missions not till 2018 or 2020.
(Note the article also incorrectly implies that JSC is building Orion - not so: that is being built by Lockheed Martin. JSC of course s involved but it is not being built 'in-house' by NASA)