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Ronald Reagan, Space Pioneer

Fri Jun 11, 2004 5:28 pm

While we have Reagan to thank for starting the budget sucking monstrosity that is today's ISS, he did perform a great service. And it had nothing to do with the monolithic NASA.

When Reagan took office, in the US, there were only two ways to launch payloads into space- either via the Space Shuttle (expensive) or via the Air Force (also expensive). All launches were made with a government launch vehicle.

There was a push for private space development in the early 80's, but significant regulatory obstacles remained. Legal launch ranges. FCC for frequencies. FAA for air clearance, EPA for environmental impact studies. Even the State Dept. regarding international treaties (notably with the USSR, of course).

Quote from the article-

When this issue was raised to the president, it piqued his interest. Having lived through the early history of the space program, during which only of government agencies went into space, he had never considered the possibility of private companies doing so. But it resonated strongly with his basic philosophy of freedom and individualism, so he decided to make it happen. He held a cabinet meeting at which the main issue under discussion was not whether or not to do it, but how and where, with the two candidates being the Department of Commerce, under Malcolm Baldrige, and the Department of Transportation, under Elizabeth (now Senator) Dole. In accordance with his natural predilections, the decision was made on the basis of which department would be the most nurturing of the new industry and provide the fewest hindrances.

Apparently Secretary Dole was the most persuasive in that regard, because in 1983 the president signed an executive order establishing an Office of Commercial Space Transportation in the Department of Transportation, which would issue launch licenses. In 1984, Congress codified this into law in the Commercial Space Launch Act, and Reagan was pleased to sign it.

The Challenger tragedy spurred things along a great deal (somewhat unfortunate, but true).

So, when out in Mojave in a few weeks Scaled Composites exercises their new FAA license (it's supposed to be soon), realize that Reagan is the one who championed for such private activity.

On June 21, the world will see the first person to earn astronaut wings in a non-government sponsored vehicle, and the first private civilian to fly a spaceship out of the atmosphere.


Way to go, Burt.
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RE: Ronald Reagan, Space Pioneer

Fri Jun 11, 2004 10:05 pm

Maybe that is why the hippies in California used to call him "Ronald Ray Gun"

I recall that he privatized the transport of the California Governor by contracting with Union Flights for Citation N31ST. Jerry Brown thought that was wasteful and started using an Air Guard C-131 which used twice the petroleum products, three times the crew and went half the speed.

Happiness is not seeing another trite Ste. Maarten photo all week long.
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RE: Ronald Reagan, Space Pioneer

Sat Jun 12, 2004 12:18 am

Yes, they will transport on their way back to California and this where will be buried there in California with B747 aircraft.
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RE: Ronald Reagan, Space Pioneer

Sat Jun 12, 2004 2:49 am

No really, you cannot give Reagan the credit for x-prize.
He did spend cash on the absurd Star Wars fantasy, he did give the impression that the ill fated X-30 test vehicle was somehow the prototype for a hypersonic airliner, he slashed NASA's budget in his first few years.

But then again, nice guy he may have been, he had trouble separating fantasy from reality, all that time in Hollywood maybe?

Don't think so? Then explain why he told the then Israeli PM that he had been at the liberation of one of the concentration camps, when in fact he barely left Hollywood in WW2, luckily for Reagan the Israeli PM didn't know this and was moved to tears.

From some of the stuff I've seen these last few days, he worked a similar number on many of his own citizens.
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RE: Ronald Reagan, Space Pioneer

Sat Jun 12, 2004 10:16 am

I didn't attribute the X-Prize to Reagan. That's a little too recent for him to have anything to do with. Reagan would've supported such a prize, though. Even if it's just symbolic.

Do you not understand that he paved the way for launch licenses by private companies (at least in the US)?
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RE: Ronald Reagan, Space Pioneer

Sun Jun 13, 2004 1:45 am

Yes, but at the same time on his watch, though he would not have been involved in the detail, NASA pushed the absurd idea of using the Shuttle as a commercial launch vehicle, remember those?

The capture of a disabled satellite with MMU wearing astronauts was impressive, in some exploration and science missions it could be useful, but the reality of the exercise was that it would have been cheaper to build and launch a replacement bird.
Remember all those satellite launching missions with a crew member from the nation's satellite?
Mexico, Saudi Arabia to name just two, then US politicians started getting in on this 'Payload Specialist' act.

Worse, the pressure of 'commercial' (in fact heavily subsidized) missions led to intolerable pressure on Shuttle availability and launches, worse, the semi hijacking of Shuttle by the Pentagon, (which dated back to and adversely affected the design of the Shuttle), made these pressures more acute.
Indirectly, this helped along the poor decision making just prior to Challengers final launch.

In 1984, Reagan approved the station, for reasons that had everything to do with the uncomfortable fact that since the early 70's, the USSR had a permanent presence in space with the Salyut series, the US had the excellent Skylab, but threw it and it's planned successors away with all the rest of the Apollo infrastructure.

The 'Freedom' programme was typically Reagan era, unfocused, tried to put commercial elements where they did not belong to sell it, were the result of officials working on the very large child like element to Reagan's make up, they made him some 'Freedom' models and he was suitably impressed to approve it.

They ended up spending $11 billion on studies, before the programme was recast into the more practical 'Alpha', later ISS station in concert with Russia, if you think what is now called ISS has eat $ imagine what some of the bigger 'Freedom' configurations would have done, and 'Freedom' would have totally relied on Shuttle, no Proton launches for the base elements, and we know how risky and limited Shuttle is to use as a launch vehicle for a complex space station.

So what should have happened?
From 1975 to the early 90's, NASA kept on pressing for a Shuttle C, basically the engines, fuel tank and SRB's carrying unmanned a much bigger payload into orbit.
As all the main parts were already developed and in service, relatively cheap, little new infrastructure needed.
Not as capable as a Saturn V, but way more capable of putting a load much bigger than Shuttle could manage into orbit, with no crew risk.

So, had Reagan (who I accept was not anti space programme, which Mondale certainly was) approved Shuttle C early on, by the end of his term a modular station using a couple of Shuttle C flights could have been in orbit, waiting for crews and additional smaller modules from regular Shuttles, actually using the Shuttle for what the original design concept called for.

Now I don't know when they would have exceeded spending $11 billion on this, but you can be sure much of the hardware would have been built with it, rather than on endless redesigns.
The NASA/ESA co-operation on Spacelab provided a template for smaller modules for our hypothetical station, the base elements need not be restricted by a normal Shuttles space and weight limitations, because Shuttle C launches these.

Fact is, with our current level of rocket technology, through Salyut and especially Mir, the Russians showed how to do space stations, the US had known but threw it away.
Even on the ISS, NASA has spent your tax $ on a complex life support system, when the Russian elements have well proven systems that do the job a lot cheaper, because they are incrementally improved designs with many years of spaceflight behind them.

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RE: Ronald Reagan, Space Pioneer

Sun Jun 13, 2004 2:12 am

To illustrate what I was banging on about in my previous post;

Though a possible reusable pod for the SSME's was mooted, this could well have been technically difficult and expensive, however it was also planned that SSME's nearing the end of their life could be used, on these unmanned launches, possible as Shuttle C would be used infrequently.
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RE: Ronald Reagan, Space Pioneer

Sun Jun 13, 2004 1:23 pm

Oh, I fully agree about the budget sucking monstrosities that both the Shuttle and the ISS were/are. NASA outright lied about the Shuttle to get the OMB to approve it. The ISS is just a boondoggle, period.

Just more evidence that government programs are inefficient money-sucking monoliths.

I read a very good book a while back about the development of the shuttle. Typical big government...such big claims...and yet the product fell so terribly short of those grandiose claims (akin to LBJ "eliminating" poverty).

Unmanned rockets are much cheaper. Frankly, I also like the Shuttle C concept. And I'm a big supporter of Robert Zubrin and Mars, as well as JPL's tremendous successes with deep space and interplanetary probes.
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Sun Jun 13, 2004 5:01 pm

I've read Zubrin's stuff, impressive, to NASA's credit, they've pretty much adopted his ideas for their baseline Mars planning.

I don't think people mind so much if a big programme is clearly focused and has obvious results, that's how Apollo succeeded, had the US not been in such a fractious state in the early 70's with the fall out from Vietnam and all the strife at home it caused, than maybe it would not have been curtailed, (after most of the money had been spent).

Ditto a space station, one launched and operational fairly quickly won't get the flak ISS has, though many of those on Capitol Hill kicking off about that project bear a responsibility for the state NASA got itself into.

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