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The USFG should reinstate and substantially fund the Constellation program.

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/13/2011 Category: Politics
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,846 times Debate No: 17898
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (1)
Votes (3)




3 Reasons:

1. Space development -
The private sector is not willing to take the risk that the federal government is willing to take. Thus, the status quo hinders the further development of cost-effective launch vehicles and space exploration. We are utterly defenseless against many problems on our planet including warming, resource scarcity, and wars. Only by expanding to space can we continue to our existence. (For a good article on this search Collins and Autino 2010).
Constellation allows the government to develop heavy launch vehicles and technologies for the private sector to then use.

2. Industrial Base
Cancelling government contracts creates job losses in the Aerospace industry. Not only is this critical to our economy which is on the brink of another downturn, the aerospace industry independently bolsters United States hegemony, our deterrent capability, and our international leadership. U.S. hegemony, deterrence, and a unipolar system has kept the world generally free of conflict (at least the escaltion of conflict) for the last 50 years.

3. Space Leadership
Cancelling Constellation signals loss of space leadership to the rest of the world. We no longer have the ability to send humans into space, and Obama's current plans are ineffective at bolstering continued leadership. United States space leadership bolsters cooperative frameworks and multi-lateral advancements in space (Rendleman and Friedman make this argument). Now is a critical time to combat space debris and the potential weaponization of space.
The cascading effect of space debris has the potential to destroy all of our satellites that are critical GPS, communications, and precision warfare and space weaponization lowers the threshold for conflict (including nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare (Mitchell 2001).
Independently, Constellation was a multi-lateral project between multiple countries and its cancellation signaled a unilateral action.

Anyone will be hard-pressed to find any qualified evidence that the technology of Constellation actually will fail. In fact, the reason it did not perform return results was because of lack of congressional funding. A policy that fully funded it would be successful.

And let's be honest NASA's budget is about half of 1% of what the federal government spends - boosting funding for Constellation wouldn't even affect the current budget proceedings. Try to find NASA here:


Thanks for the debate willy.

==My case==

According to the Review of Human Space Flight Plans Committee (henceforth "RHSFPC"), the Constellation program had been developing the Ares I rocket and Orion space capsule in order to put astronauts in low-Earth orbit; the Ares V heavy-lift launch vehicle, designed to launch astronauts and equipment to the Moon and beyond low-Earth orbit, was NOT in the works at the time Obama cancelled the program. [1] Lastly, the Constellation program included development of the Altair lunar lander.

==Manned low-Earth orbit==

The only reason to send manned missions to low-Earth orbit is to reach the International Space Station (henceforth, "ISS"). Ares I/Orion were initially slated to launch in 2012, but the launch was rescheduled until 2017, and the RHSFPC thinks 2019 is more likely. [1] "The Committee estimates that the Ares I vehicle planned to transport humans to low-Earth orbit will not be available until two years after the ISS ceases to operate under the current plan." [1] Obama cancelled Constellation because its only component currently under development would not be ready in time to be useful.

Cost overruns were also a huge issue, since the initial total cost of developing Ares I/Orion was projected at $10 billion, but newer cost estimates put the figure at closer to $40 billion, which is huge given NASA's small budget. [2] The General Accountability Office estimates that over the next two decades, the Ares I/Orion would cost US taxpayers a total of $230 billion. [2] This is a lot of money considering that we won't need manned low-Earth orbit capabilities once the ISS is closed down.

---Private companies could perform this duty cheaper and faster---

According to the RHSFPC, "Recently, several aerospace companies began developing new rockets and on-orbit vehicles as part of the commercial cargo delivery program. Several other U.S. companies are contemplating orbital passenger flight. There is little doubt that the U.S. aerospace industry, from historical builders of human spacecraft to the new entrants, has the technical capability to build and operate a crew taxi to low-Earth orbit . . . In the existing COTS A-C contracts, two commercial suppliers have received or invested about $400-$500 million for the development of a new launch vehicle and unmanned spacecraft." [1]

SpaceX, a private company, is already nearly ready to fill this role. According to Wired, "SpaceX is one of several private ventures (including Mohave Aerospace Ventures and Virgin Galactic) which have been launched in recent years to develop launch vehicles for satellites, cargo, and human crews. These private companies have already made significant advances toward a non-governmental option for manned space flight, most notably SpaceX's successful flight of a multistage rocket, and deployment of a satellite to orbit. The company's "Dragon" module (which is projected to be capable of carrying seven passengers) is scheduled for testing, including a fly-by of the International Space Station, this year." [3]

The RHSFPC estimates the cost to NASA of using private companies to fly their astronauts to low-Earth orbit at one-sixth of the cost of developing its own low-Earth program. [1] The Committee recommends NASA allow private companies to focus on this much easier task to free NASA to concentrate on more grandiose endeavors. "This [contracting low-Earth flights] would allow NASA to focus on more challenging roles, including human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit." [1]

==Moon First vs. Mars First==

The RHSFPC explains that the Constellation program was designed to be a Moon First program, meaning it was designed to reach the moon and would then need significant redesigns to reach Mars. [1] The RHSFPC found the lunar program significantly behind its schedule of a lunar landing in 2020. [4] Obama points out, in a speech at the JFK Space Center, "I understand that some believe we should attempt a return to the surface of the Moon first, as previously planned. But I just have to say pretty bluntly here. We've been there before...there's a lot more of space to explore." [4] Obama's plan calls for a $19 billion annual budget for NASA, and an additional $6 billion for NASA to develop a heavy launch vehicle by 2015, capable of first landing on an asteroid and then moving on to Mars. [4] Obama's program has a better goal than the Constellation program, bypassing the need to redesign an entirely new space program and lunar lander merely to return to the moon.

---Air Force---

The RHSFPC goes through each potential method of developing a superheavy launch vehicle to achieve Obama's vision. There are three main options: retool the old shuttle design (unviable), use the Orion/Ares-V (too expensive, possibly unviable), or retool the Air Force's expandable launch vehicle (EELV), the Delta V. [5] The RHSFPC reports, "The EELV heritage superheavy launchers represent a potential family of vehicles derived from the current Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles heritage. They are distinguished technically from the NASA heritage vehicle by their use of liquid booster (rather than the solid rocket boosters) and secondarily by a hydrocarbon (RP-1) fueled rocket in the first stage core . . . The Committee considers the EELV-heritage super-heavy vehicle to be a way to significantly reduce the operating cost of the heavy lifter to NASA in the long run." [1]


R1) Space development

I've already shown that there are significant private sector efforts to get into space and that Obama has not stopped superheavy launch vehicle development to get us beyond Earth's orbit; in fact, the Constellation program was spending all of NASA's money on Ares I/Orion to get us into low-Earth orbit, not beyond it, and Obama cancelled the program so we could REFOCUS on exactly what my opponent wants – getting into space, beyond low-Earth orbit, first landing on an asteroid, then Mars. Obama even increased NASA funding to achieve this.

R2) Industrial base

This is a clear example of the broken window fallacy – forgetting opportunity cost. Many authors, like Christopher Preble, document how wasteful government procurement programs are of our industrial base, since they divert resources from the private sector into expensive, often useless, ventures.

My opponent provides no evidence on how the aerospace industry is essential to US hegemony or deterrence. We are not losing our ability to launch satellites into orbit since we still have the Delta V.

In addition, these lost contracts don't result in lost jobs. Popular Mechanics notes that NASA can't fire people, so no one at NASA is losing their job. [5] In addition, Alliant Techsystems (ATK), which was building the Ares I, is still developing the rocket for use in the private sector, renaming it the "Liberty" rocket.[6] "ATK and Astrium are pitching the Liberty rocket for NASA's Commercial Crew Development-2 competition, which is seeking proposals for commercial spacecraft to transport astronauts to and from space." [6]

R3) Space leadership

This argument essentially deals with international cooperation. However, if anything, we have to cooperate more now with the Russians since we temporarily need to hitch rides with them to the international space station (turn). Constellation was NOT a multi-lateral project, as my opponent asserts.

---Space Debris---

Unilateral action can solve. A well-studied solution is to use a remotely controlled vehicle to rendezvous with debris, capture it, and return to a central station. The commercially-developed MDA Space Infrastructure Servicing vehicle is a refueling depot and service spacecraft for communication satellites in geosynchronous orbit, slated for launch in 2015. [7]

Additionally, the momentum of the photons in a laser beam could be used to impart thrust on the debris directly. Although this thrust would be tiny, it may be enough to move small debris into new orbits that do not intersect those of working satellites. NASA research from 2011 indicates that existing 5 kW industrial lasers could be used in this role, making it a low-cost option. [8]

---Weaponization of Space---

The Outer Space Treaty of 1967 prevents nations from deploying weapons of mass destruction in space. [9] In regards to other weapons, the United Kingdom government has pointed out that progress would be easier if each issue was approached separately on its merit rather than taking a comprehensive approach. Since many of the weapons we are so worried about being deployed in space are still many years from being developed, we should take a bilateral approach on a weapons-by-weapons basis.

R4) NASA budget is small

"Fully-funding" Constellation could have meant a 400% increase in NASA's budget since the program was so wasteful and behind schedule [1]. Even if NASA's budget is small as a percentage, 0.5% of GDP is an awful lot of money to pay when the entire budget is going to sending astronauts to the International Space Station, a task that could be performed for cheaper by the private sector (for example, 0.5% of GDP is how much we'd need to increase our international aid budget to meet our UN target and significantly increase our soft power and international influence [another turn to international leadership]). Remember, the GAO projected that the low-Earth orbit missions alone would cost taxpayers $230 billion over the next two decades.

Debate Round No. 1


Before making any arguments – I would like to point out the framework of this round. In judging these debates I ask the judges who are reviewing to stick to what the debaters have said and to not substitute our positions for their own ideology.

Additionally I think it's time to pick apart the voting issues –

1. "Who had better conduct?" This is a direct appeal to ethos/pathos, but I think at least in debate forums a focus on logos is much more productive and conducive to educational discussions. Just because many people ARE swayed by ethos and pathos doesn't mean we should fall prey to similar shortcomings.

2. "Who had better spelling and grammar?" This shouldn't matter, if you can understand the debate, then judge the debate. Frankly this is just oppressive and exclusionary. As a first generation immigrant, writing this rebuttal is already such a challenge. Focusing on spelling in grammar just makes it much harder for debaters whose first language isn't English.

3. "Who made more convincing arguments?" I don't think this is external from "what do you think afterwards." So this shouldn't be a relevant voting issue.

4. "Who used the most reliable sources?" Again, this shouldn't be separate voting issue. Reliable sources should contribute to "convincing argument" which should contribute to "what you think."

Now onto the debate proper: Before anything else, I would like to point out the lack of offense my opponent has. His "case" is not a reason why Constellation is bad, it's just a reason why it doesn't work or isn't necessary. But that's not a reason why at least trying to do Constellation is bad. I'll elaborate when I refute his points.

Now, my case –

1. Space Development –

Opponent has not questioned the inevitable extinction of the human race if we do not get off the rock – this is something we should NOT play around with. This is a prior issue to spending concerns and any other problems.

Now, I control the direction of development.
The private sector is NOT developing a sustainable launch industry. Sterner 2011 points out that private companies do not want to take the risk and cannot create the technology. My opponent points out SpaceX, but the fact that he points out a specific company proves that overall private sector fails. Pepsi Challenge – point out one piece of evidence that the private sector can develop a sustainable, long-term, launch industry that get us beyond low-earth orbit. He will not be able to – any evidence he does provide will be driven by financial our political incentives to make that claim.

I also control the direction of crowd out. He has not made the argument that a focus on government development crowds out the private sector. Robel in 2004 actually says that the two are not exclusive. Thus, if my opponent wins the premise that the private sector IS developing launch vehicles now, the government working won't stop the private sector from doing so.
Also Obama's focus is on Earth Science and robotic missions, this won't gut humans out of LEO. A mission to Asteroids/Mars will be subject to the same "problem" as Constellation. It's much easier for Obama to reinstate Constellation than for him to get us to go the Asteriods/Mars.

2. Industrial base –

If I'm right, it's not a broken window fallacy.

Two reasons why Constellation is critical to the industrial base:

A. Slazer 2011 – lack of a human spaceflight industry makes engineers and scientists to leave the space industry
B. Maser 2011 – Constellation produces continued GROWTH in the industrial base, it's not just "lost contracts --> job loss" it's lack of growth.

My opponents argument is also incoherent. Just because people who work for NASA still have their jobs doesn't mean contracts for private companies are maintained.

Aerospace is critical to hegemony and deterrence – we need to develop new technologies to keep up with other countries' military capabilities. Delta V is insufficient, that's just a launcher. We need NEW tech.

A. National Aerospace Week 10
B. Albaugh 2011

3. Leadership
Dependence on Russian launch isn't the same as cooperation, it doesn't turn the advantage.

He has not questioned the premise that leadership is critical to cooperation – that's Friedman and Rendleman, so I don't have to argue that Constellatino was multilateral.

Two scenarios as a result of this –

First – weaponization. Other wars can be deterred, but space weaponization results in computer glitches and accidental war, that's Mitchell.

Now the Rendleman in 2010 says that only through space cooperation can we create international coalitions to deter space weaponization. The OST has no ability to stop weaponization outside of countries' decision to cooperate and work together. Even if we need to establish a weapon-by-weapon basis of cooperation, that doesn't change the premise that we need that cooperation in the first place. Only the US can do it.

Second – I'll concede unilateral action can solve U.S. debris, but those actions can't stop debris from hitting other debris or from other countries engaging in ASAT tests. Those lasers and technologies aren't being established in the status quo and he doesn't provide any evidence that it can be done fast enough. Senechal in 2007 says we are at a critical mass now before a cascade effect. Without stopping that cascade effect, all of space and our satellites will be rendered useless.


This is not an intrinsic reason why Constellation is bad. We can withdraw troops from Afghanistan or cut Medicare/Medicaid budgets. To think that even quadrupling NASA's budget will change anything is absurd. NASA's budget is so low anyways that it doesn't matter and we overspend so much anyways that it doesn't matter. Additionally a bigger aerospace industry boosts federal government revenue.

2. Tradeoff with other programs –
This is answered by the development advantage. Also again, not an intrinsic reason why Constellation is bad – we can give NASA more money and we don't stop other technologies from being developed.

The only reason the technology failed was BECAUSE of the cost overruns. The resolution posits that we will "substantially funds" it so we overcome all of his solvency deficits.


Thanks for the quick response willy!


R1) Critique of the voting system

I have my own issues with the voting system, but it's really not my job to defend it here. I urge voters to vote like normal; if my opponent wanted to modify the voting system for this debate, he should have so specified before I accepted.

R2) My "lack of offense"

All my offense comes from opportunity cost – Obama's NEW plan will get us beyond low-Earth orbit more quickly than Constellation (which was focused primarily on getting astronauts to the ISS).

"Space Development"

R3) Extinction if we don't get off Earth

My opponent didn't make the argument, until now, that we will INEVITABLY go extinct if we don't get "off this rock." Global warming will not lead to extinction and can easily be solved by geoengineering, in an emergency, using sulfur dioxide in the upper atmosphere (SuperFreakonomics). Resource scarcity is solved by scientific improvement (Malthus being wrong, for example, because of technological improvement) and it only leads to extinction if we completely run out of ALL resources, which is tens of thousands of years in the future – it's not a today problem. War is deterred by nuclear weapons.

Regardless, my opponent must prove that human survival outweighs any potential cost and that the burden is on the US to ensure this survival (as opposed to Russia). Personally, if a cataclysmic event happens that kills me, I don't really care if 5 people survive on Mars or zero people survive, and I am not willing to pay any of my income to Mars colonization to "safeguard the human genome."

R4) Private sector ability to get beyond low-Earth orbit

I never argue that they can; in fact, my RHSFPC says specifically that NASA should leave low-Earth orbit to private companies so it can focus on getting BEYOND low-Earth orbit. NASA should outsource manned trips to the ISS to the private sector, which is one-sixth the cost of developing their own option through the Constellation program.

Remember the RHSFPC evidence that before Obama cancelled Consternation, the program had NASA spending all of its money on the Ares I, which was designed only to enter low-Earth orbit. Obama has refocused the program to get us beyond low-Earth orbit; his goal is to first land on an asteroid, then on Mars.

---The Crowd out---

NASA generally only uses one method to get astronauts to the ISS, historically it's been the shuttle program. If NASA is developing its own launch vehicle, private companies have much less incentive to offer an alternative, since they know NASA won't use it. Cancelling Constellation accelerates private sector research into manned missions to low-Earth orbit.

R5) Evidentiary standards

My opponent cites a number of pieces of evidence using the format "author's last name, date," but without citing the original source or actually providing the evidence in his speech. He is clearly just referencing his evidence from his policy debate summer camp, but neither I nor the judge have access to said evidence to challenge it, so don't accept any of his evidence. He's basically trying to have a policy debate where he doesn't read any of his evidence, only references it.

R6) Obama's plan is flawed?

My opponent claims it is easier to reinstate Constellation than to develop a new plan. RHSFPC shows this is not true since Constellation had NASA spending all its money on the wrong goal (low-Earth orbit, not beyond) and on a system that was increasingly behind schedule and increasingly costly. Using the Air Force's EELV launch vehicles is a better prototype for development of long-range space flight than using the Ares as a prototype.

"Industrial Base"

R7) Slazer "evidence"

Obama did not cancel the space program, he merely scrapped the Ares design and refocused the mission AWAY from low-Earth orbit to the ISS and a "moon first" policy towards a new heavy launch vehicle and a "Mars first" approach. He even INCREASED NASA funding after cancelling Constellation to help them achieve this goal. So engineers are not lost from the aerospace industry.

R8) Mazer "evidence"

I have no idea what Mazer actually argues based on what my opponent has stated. Industrial base is wasted if it leads to an Ares I launch vehicle that is NEVER used because the ISS is gone. However, no one from the Ares project is losing their job because the same company is repositioning the rocket for use in the private sector.

R9) Delta V insufficient

My opponent never explains why. The RHSFPC says we should base our new space program on the EELV's, not that we use the specific Delta V to launch astronauts to Mars. We would be designing a new space launch vehicle and launcher.


R10) Increased cooperation with Russia

This is a turn because we are now forced to cooperate more with Russia on space since they are our only path now to the ISS. Our government officials have to stay in contact with their government officials, which makes it easier to secure Russian cooperation on future international space legislation.

R11) Leadership is key to cooperation

My opponent cites two pieces of evidence here that he, again, never reads and doesn't provide a citation for. He never explains why the US reaching Mars first is critical to getting China, for example, to sign an agreement not to weaponize space.

R12) Space weaponization

Constellation has nothing to do with space weaponization. No link is ever established.

R13) Space debris

My opponent concedes that technology (trash vehicles in space and lasers) can solve this.

R14) Anti-satellite tests

If someone shot down one of our satellites, it would be viewed as an act of war; classical deterrence prevents this.

His attacks on my case

R15) Budget problems

Realistically, neither side would have approved of huge increases in NASA's budget during the debt ceiling negotiations. Regardless, the huge cost overruns went along with structural problems in the Ares design, according to the RHSFPC. In addition, it wasn't just a problem with the budget; NASA was spending on the wrong GOAL – getting astronauts to the ISS, not getting astronauts to the Moon, and definitely not to Mars.

My opponent claims, "a big aerospace industry actually boosts government revenue." How??? Sinking $230 billion over the next two decades, according to the GAO, into the Ares I, which won't even be ready in time to get astronauts to the ISS, when the private sector can do this instead, is simply a HUGE waste of government money and doesn't make the government any money back. In fact, inhibiting the private sector from doing this actually loses the government tax revenue, since it does tax business, but does not tax NASA.

My opponent drops my turn as well, that if we put all the money he proposes to put into Constellation instead in our foreign aid budget this would increase our world leadership much more, accessing all his leadership advantages (space debris, weaponization, etc), since this would do far more to improve our global image than would reaching the Moon again. This drop effectively ends the whole debate.

R16) Tradeoff with other programs

The disadvantage to running both Obama's Mars First plan and Constellations Ares V Moon First plan is that NASA has limited resources. Even if we increase their funding, they only have so much brainpower. The RHSFPC concludes that developing off the EELV will lead to a quicker path to Mars than will developing the Ares V.

Also, reinstating Constellation would still mean wasting huge amounts of money on a useless Ares I rocket that we won't need anymore by the time it's ready. We can't just waste $230 billion whenever we feel like it.

Reasons to vote Con

1. Constellation inhibits private sector development of manned missions to low-Earth orbit, which are one-sixth of the cost to the Federal government compared to Ares I, according to the RHSFPC. SpaceX already has a prototype ready to be tested this year.

2. Constellation splits NASA's focus, when all their energy should be focused on getting beyond low-Earth orbit. Obama's plan is better to accomplish all of what my opponent wants, and Constellation seriously detracts from his plan since NASA can only develop one vehicle at a time.

3. Constellation is a Moon First program. As Obama pointed out, "we've already been there." Why spend so much money on a lunar lander specifically designed to do something we've already done. If the Earth is destroyed, the Moon is not a good candidate for a long-term colony. We should be focusing on getting deeper into space.

4. If we did reinstitute Constellation, it would once again focus on Ares I and low-Earth orbit. According to the RHSFPC, Ares V required NASA to first develop Ares I. Obama's new plan would bypass this wasteful step. Obama's plan is projected to have a heavy launch vehicle ready for development by 2015; Ares V would not be ready for development until at least 2020.

5. Developing a vehicle based on the Air Force's expandable launch vehicles will get us to Mars faster. If you believe my opponent that a world nuclear war could kill us all at any moment, you'll vote for the side that gets us off Earth faster, which is Con.

6. $230 billion for Ares I, when it won't even be ready in time to be useful, is a huge waste of money.
Debate Round No. 2


willyxiao forfeited this round.


Extend all my arguments and vote Con.
Debate Round No. 3


willyxiao forfeited this round.


My opponent concedes - vote Con.
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by willyxiao 5 years ago
Sorry I forgot to say this before - round 1 may be a time for clarification also.
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