Many folks would like to see us back on the Moon and developing its resources.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Letter to the Augustine Commission

I have received some comments about the last post on "The $3-billion-a-year question - Can you answer the question - Why?"
It seems you think we should go to the Moon and to develop it.
Some would say we should continue with what we had set out to do.

Dr. Ronald Wells, who has a small private company and does photogrammetric analysis of lunar & planetary photos, sent me a note that he had co-written a 3-page letter to the Augustine Commission with William Mellberg, a noted aerospace historian (AW&ST; Aviation publications; last month's Keynote Speaker at the 60th Anniversary of the maiden flight of the Avro Jetliner in Toronto; author of "Moon Missions"; etc.). The letter apparently had some impact at NASA because Ron also noted that they had received a very nice reply from Michael Hawes, Associate Administrator of the Program Analysis & Evaluation Division (NASA's in-house OMB). They also had an earlier email from Jack Schmitt in support. Ron showed me these letters, too. They also sent the letter to Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-Az), but after they had sent copies to their cc: list.

You can read a bit more about Ronald A. Wells here. Much thanks for all the Apollo information he has sent me over the years. - LRK -

Ron gave me permission to post their Augustine Commission
- LRK -

Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Augustine Commission
Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee
NASA Headquarters
300 E St. SW
Washington DC 20024-3210

Dear Panel Members:

Allow us to begin with a quotation:

"We choose to go to the Moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win ..."--President John F. Kennedy (speaking at Rice University in 1962)

We wish we had sent this letter to you sooner. If we had, we would have told you that the best plan for Human Space Flight that we've read was already issued last year by NASA HQ (NP-2008-08-542-HQ ), "NASA Advisory Council Workshop On Science Associated With The Lunar Exploration Architecture" (February 27-March 2, 2007; Tempe, Arizona). This workshop report was prepared by an Organizing Committee of 31 scientists distilled from material presented by 75 attending scientists.

The report justifies all aspects of America's return to the Moon in terms of conducting Lunar Science, Earth Science, Heliophysics and Astrophysics from a lunar research station located on the rim of Shackleton Crater at the Moon's South Pole. It also discusses the long-term value of such a lunar base for Planetary Science and the future exploration of Mars and other destinations (such as asteroids). It is a well-reasoned and viable plan (Apollo 17 scientist-astronaut Dr. Harrison H. Schmitt provided significant input) which NASA should be following now and in the coming decade.

We will not belabor the points already raised by a document in the public domain. But it should (at the very least) have formed the working basis for your Commission. That said, please permit us to add some further points. The implementation of the recommendations in the aforementioned NASA report would have a profound effect on the development of a new industry and economy based on space travel and the exploration of the Solar System--comparable, we would suggest, to the effect on the global economy of commercial airline development during the last century. This transition to the future should be led by the United States as we are in the best position to carry freedom and free enterprise into the New Frontier.

It is not a question of whether any one program will fit within the NASA budget. The point is that the NASA budget MUST be increased to facilitate adoption of the NASA Advisory Council's 2008 workshop recommendations (as it was during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations in support of the Apollo Program). In other words, NASA should stay on course with the Constellation Program--including the development of both the Ares I (now ready for its first test launch) and Ares V launch vehicles. It is an investment in our children's future--not a waste of resources (which would be the case were these recommendations not implemented, and the work already accomplished to be cast aside).

To illustrate this point, we would like to cite four historical cases related to the lack of political will on the part of three different governments with regard to the development of the aircraft industry:

(1) The forced cancellation of the Northrop YB-49 flying wing in 1949, after contracts had already been drawn up with the U.S. Air Force, has been described by some aerospace experts as the single greatest mistreatment of an American aircraft manufacturer by the American government--and as the worst political and defense blunder in the history of the United States. Thirty years after the B-49 was cancelled (largely on political grounds), the "wheel" had to be reinvented with the Northrop B-2. What was the cost to the American taxpayer (and to aeronautical science) of the misguided decision to cancel the flying wing program (and its related stealth technology) 60 years ago?

(2) The forced cancellation by the Canadian government of the Avro C102 Jetliner, first flown 60 years ago this month, has been rated by some airline industry experts as the single greatest technological and economic blunder in Canada's history. This pioneering jet transport set numerous records as it toured major airports across North America. Howard Hughes, who owned TWA at the time, wanted to purchase the Jetliner for commercial air routes. The aircraft was a full decade ahead of any similar transport. But the Canadian government prevented the Jetliner from going into production because of political considerations. Consequently, Canada lost billions of dollars in export revenues and the opportunity to lead the world in jet transport development.

(3) In a similar defense blunder by the Canadian government, the Avro CF-105 Arrow, the most advanced jet fighter of its time, was canceled by a newly-elected prime minister on the grounds of cost savings. In a single day, that misguided decision put nearly 15,000 highly-skilled people out of work at Avro, and another 15,000 employees in support industries across Canada. The brand-new Arrows were ordered to be scrapped in the presence of armed security guards. What a total waste! Avro went out of business as a result, and Canada lost the opportunity to lead the world in the design and development of advanced military aircraft. (Canada's loss was America's gain as two dozen of Avro's best engineers came to NASA and took leading roles in the Apollo Program. Owen Maynard, for example, was a key figure in the design of the Lunar Module.)

(4) A somewhat similar fate befell the Swedish aircraft manufacturer, SAAB. Although it produced several highly-advanced jet fighters in the 1950s (Tunnan, Lansen, Draken) because successive Swedish governments had the will to pay the high price for high technology, Sweden's short-sighted leaders pulled the plug on SAAB's first commercial airliner in 1951. The Scandia, as it was called, could have enjoyed global sales. But owing to the Cold War heating up at that time, the Swedish government ordered SAAB to abandon a promising commercial program to focus on the production of warplanes. Thus, SAAB lost the opportunity to generate billions of export dollars for Sweden's economy. (The firm finally entered the airline market 30 years later with its SAAB 340 regional transport.)

The message is clear: governments which do not have the will to invest in high technology and to balance that technology between civilian enterprises (such as America's space program) and military programs do not lead the world in economic development.

The moral of these stories with respect to the current administration is that its rush to change horses in midstream--in fact, to give up trying to cross that stream at all--will lead to disastrous consequences that can have a serious effect on profligate spending which should have been more wisely invested instead of wasted.

More to the point, if we (the United States) do not return to the Moon to explore and employ its resources for the benefit of humankind, someone else will (for their own benefit). We believe, as John Kennedy believed, that America should lead the way into the New Frontier. What a tragedy it would be to turn our backs on the future--and to ignore the legacy of President Kennedy.

Every great adventure throughout history has been marked by something simple, yet profound--the will to do it.

Does America still have the will?

Yours sincerely,

Dr. Ronald A. Wells, CEO
Tranquillity Enterprises
Abingdon, VA 24211

William F. Mellberg, Consultant,
Aerospace Historian and Author
Park Ridge, IL 60068

cc: Senator Barbara Mikulski, MD
Senator Bill Nelson, FL
Charles F. Bolden, Jr., NASA Administrator


Fig. 1. The Avro Jetliner in flight in 1949, North America’s first commercial jetliner, cancelled in production by C. D. Howe of the Canadian Government leading to the loss of Canada’s preeminence in the commercial jet industry. (By permission of George Laidlaw via Jim Floyd)


Fig. 2. The Northrop YB-49 in flight over Edwards Air Force Base, California in 1948, cancelled by Stuart Symington, Secretary of the Air Force, after contracts had been signed with Northrop. Thirty years later, the Northrop B-2, its successor, became the preeminent U.S. bomber. (U.S. Air Force photo no. 090706-F-1234K-053)


Two other notes from you folks I have copied below.
- LRK -

Thanks for looking up with me.

Larry Kellogg

Web Site:
RSS link:
Here's my answer:

The answer, while almost impossible to put into words, is one humanity
has addressed and answered before. Why leave Africa? Why learn to travel
over the world's oceans and colonize the other continents before anyone
was there? Why, for that matter, colonize uninhabitable places like
Arizona? Whatever the answers to these questions, any answers are
identical to the answer of, Why send people to explore and colonize the

The question should hardly be worth asking. If it is, why don't we all
just go back to a rift valley in Africa and go quietly extinct.

-- Donald

Virtually every science fiction writer has said that if we don't
look to the stars and plan for exploration, we will stagnate and
die. Piers Anthony in his Introduction to this little gem, "But What
of Earth?", talks about an experiment with mice (I've also heard it
with rats). These two rodents, one male and one female, are placed
in a very large cage with plenty of food, shelter and no predators.
Of course they breed like crazy. After a while the cage is
overcrowded. Even though there is still plenty of food, the rodents
start to go crazy. Some get paranoid, some attack anything, and the
young become just wierd. Well, you get the picture. Look at any
newspaper and you'll see that we have too many rats on this little
blue marble. If we don't keep looking up and dreaming; well, you get
the picture.




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