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Marcia Smith, Friday, 3-13-15 March 14, 2015

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Marcia Smith, Friday, 3-13-15


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Guest:  Marcia Smith.  Topics:  NASA budgets and their process, specific NASA programs, U.S. congress and more.  Please direct all comments and questions regarding Space Show programs/guest(s) to the Space Show blog, https://thespaceshow.wordpress.com.  Comments and questions should be relevant to the specific Space Show program. Written Transcripts of Space Show programs are a violation of our copyright and are not permitted without prior written consent, even if for your own use. We do not permit the commercial use of Space Show programs or any part thereof, nor do we permit editing, YouTube clips, or clips placed on other private channels & websites. Space Show programs can be quoted, but the quote must be cited or referenced using the proper citation format. Contact The Space Show for further information. In addition, please remember that your Amazon purchases can help support The Space Show/OGLF. See www.onegiantleapfoundation.org/amazon.htm.  For those listening to archives using live365.com and rating the programs, please email me as to why you assign a specific rating to the show. This will help me bring better programming to the audience.

We welcomed Marcia Smith back to the program to discuss the proposed NASA FY 16 budget and process, sequestration, specific NASA projects and more.  During our one segment 69 minute discussion, Ms. Smith started out by stating that the proposed 2016 FY NASA budget was bigger than the 2015 NASA budget by about $500 million!  Ms. Smith continued saying the trend was upward with continued strong support for SLS, Orion, and even Europa.  Also, NASA remains largely bipartisan in its congressional support.  I asked our guest about the coming sequestration for 2016-2021 and here, uncertainty prevails.  We also learned that there would be more flexibility for targeted sequestration cuts than there were the first time.  Sequestration has a focus towards two categories, security and non-security projects and expenditures.  Bob in Tucson sent in our first email to inquire about a possible “war” within the NASA planetary science and human spaceflight directorates.  A question came in regarding congressional motivators with a focus on SLS motivators.  Among the SLS motivators mentioned by our guest were national prestige, global leadership, preserving and growing our industrial base, and keeping people employed.  Jerry emailed in asking about NASA educational outreach and support in the proposed FY 16 budget.  Our first caller was Michael Listner who wanted to expand on earlier comments about the private sector and NASA, specifically government programs.  Marcia and Michael had an interesting discussion focusing on these issues.  Both cited examples including ULA, the EELV program, and the concept of “skin in the game plus the opportunity for a private sector company to fail and maybe needing a government bailout if all our eggs were in that one private sector basket. The new Lockheed Jupiter commercial cargo space tug program was mentioned and Michael said it might be useful for removal of some space debris.  The subject of building LEO infrastructure came up multiple times during our discussion, especially the issue of who or what entity would pay for its development. Government or the private sector?  BJohn asked Marcia email questions about reusability thus providing NASA with more “bang for the buck” so to speak.  I asked Marcia several questions about the discretionary part of our budget, we talked more about the Europa mission and the best way to influence congressional space policy makers.  Our guest had some very interesting things to say about this so don’t miss the discussion.  Near the end of the program, I asked if there was any serious effort to move to ten year funding for space and other very long projects given the likelihood of a program not lasting ten years due to congressional changes and program cuts.  Marcia did mention that the shuttle and ISS programs survived so it was possible for a program to last a long time. She also did not think there would be ten year funding as congress would not give up its continue oversight responsibilities for such a long term obligation.  Peter in San Diego asked about the 2016 elections and if we were likely to see a radical shift in space policy.  Donald in Los Angeles asked if the one party congress would get the budget done or if we were likely to see a CR at the end of September.  BJohn sent in another email asking about possible congressional motivators to be even more supportive of space than they have been given their $500 million budget increase.  Beverly asked Marcia about international cooperation with space projects.  Marcia said she was a strong supporter of international cooperation.  She also provided us with a few of her excellent reasons for supporting international cooperation.  Before the program ended, we came back to the issue of LEO infrastructure and cislunar development.  Given the private sector’s reluctance to invest in these areas so far, a natural conclusion would be that the private or commercial markets are not yet developed.

Please post your comments on TSS blog above.  Visit Marcia’s site, www.spacepolicyonline.com for the latest in space new and policy developments.  You can reach Ms. Smith through her website or me.



1. Kirk - March 14, 2015

Don’t go sending the Secret Service after me; it was all your idea!

Exploring a different expression, you could say that downmass is worth more than its weight in gold. If you ignore the benefit of up mass and divide the entire cost of a CRS1 cargo Dragon flight by its downmass you get $53 per gram, but gold is currently going for only $37 per gram. So if you discovered a magical LEO goldmine, with gold free for the taking, you’d need cheaper transport than a Dragon V1 to not lose money on it!

2. Kirk - March 14, 2015

David jokingly mentioned printing money in space as a funding source, and that made me wonder, as a thought experiment, just how large a denomination bill you would have to print in order to come out ahead, assuming that your bills would be accepted.

A US banknote weights approximately 1 g (regardless of denomination), so that is 1,000 bills per kg. A cargo dragon can return 2,500 kg in downmass, so it could bring back 2.5 million bills every trip. The current Commercial Resupply Services round pays SpaceX $1.6 billion for 12 cargo flights, meaning $133 million per flight. So even if you were printing $50 dollar bills on orbit, you would lose money solely on the transport costs. If you were printing $100 dollar bills, you could make $117 million per flight over your transport costs.

This ignores of the overhead of putting the printing press in orbit and operating it there, but it does give some perspective on the costs involved in spaceflight. If you did pocket $117 million per flight, you would have to fly more than twice per month if you wished to generate the $3 billion ISS annual operating cost.

The Space Show - March 14, 2015

Kirk, to get the total cost picture, you should factor in the cost of the guy’s legal defense on counterfeiting charges. Plus the cost of federal prosecution and the cost of 20 years of federal incarceration while the guy serves out his sentence. To me, that would be the true cost of printing money on orbit regardless of how it was used. Now if the government wanted to outsource the printing of US currency from their terrestrial mints to LEO or the Moon, that might be a different story.


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