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NASA Builds a Cheap Standardized Space Probe

samzenpus posted more than 6 years ago | from the now-featuring-walls dept.

NASA 123

TangAddict writes "Dr. Alan Weston, who previously invented bungee jumping, led a team of scientists at NASA Ames Research Center to build a $4 million spacecraft in less than two years. The Modular Common Spacecraft Bus is designed to accept payloads of up to 50kg. and can be used for a variety of missions including a rendezvous with asteroids, orbiting Earth or Mars, and landing on the moon. When NASA officials saw the first flight test, they offered Weston and his team $80 million to use their design for the LADEE mission, which will gather dust and atmosphere samples from the moon in 2011."

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Is it big enough for a dead Vulcan to fit in? (5, Funny)

infonography (566403) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333758)

I was just asking.

Re:Is it big enough for a dead Vulcan to fit in? (1, Insightful)

Raul654 (453029) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333816)

If I only had mod points for you....

Re:Is it big enough for a dead Vulcan to fit in? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23333824)

Yes, I too have a question.

Ok. You know how usually with periods girls get cramps?
Well for some reason right before I get my period and the whole first day instead of "cramping" my butt hurts really really badd.

Is this normal?
&& does anyone else ever have this?

Pandaemonium (5, Funny)

The Late BP Helium (997125) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333800)

This is the first time I've heard of technology that's DESIGNED to gather dust. Usually that just happens by accident.

Re:Pandaemonium (4, Funny)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333868)

All technology is designed to gather dust... eventually. It's called 'functional obsolescence'. The breakthrough development that separates this technology from previous technologies (such as the C64 in your attic and the 64MB thumb drive lodged somewhere behind your monitor) is that this gathers dust right away. Since this gathers dust virtually immediately, you can theoretically sell dust gatherers to consumers at a vastly increased rate.

Re:Pandaemonium (1)

godcipherdivine (1197195) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333968)

All technology is designed to gather dust... eventually. It's called 'functional obsolescence'. The breakthrough development that separates this technology from previous technologies (such as the C64 in your attic and the 64MB thumb drive lodged somewhere behind your monitor) is that this gathers dust right away. Since this gathers dust virtually immediately, you can theoretically sell dust gatherers to consumers at a vastly increased rate.


So what you're saying is that we gather huge clouds of solar dust and create Earth 2, then use E2 to manufacture more dust gathering devices (infinite creation loop). In all reality, if the probes were used for this, would they one day be worshiped as providers, or feared as they gather the planets much to close, and start another star right next to Wallstreet? I guess this depends on how much time the coder took writing the AI. Are we thinking Skynet, or Rosie from the Jetsons'?

Re:Pandaemonium (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23334400)

He Swings, He misses...

Re:Pandaemonium (1)

infonography (566403) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334532)

Nope, Space Dust Bunnies. They will come to eat us all.

Re:Pandaemonium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23337418)

Having designed products and worked with product designers for years in the electronics business, I can assure you that there's no such thing as planned obsolescence. The concept as such hasn't come up in the 15 years I've been in the business. What actually happens is that a reliability specification is set based on what is standard in the industry or what the market expects for the selling price point. For example, 100,000 power-on hours for a chip designed to go into a server. Everything else is about reducing cost where possible while still meeting the reliability as well as the application-specific performance specs. Industry cares less than you think about making products that break to force you to buy new ones, as people tend to buy new products anyway even when their old ones work due to desire for change or to have newly-developed features. In this context, a product with a poor reliability reputation is at a disadvantage that outweights the advantages of forcing folks to buy a new item after one breaks (esp. since they're likely to buy someone else's product when this happens).

Re:Pandaemonium (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23333890)

Uh... dustbuster? Dirtdevil? Vacuum cleaner... Still none can compare to LADEE! Is this NASA's attempt to throw in their hat in with the "anyone but Clinton" campaign? Still if you dress this probe up in a french maid outfit, it might look like a french maid, but it won't pass the Turing test. Doesn't matter, it's from NASA, just put a bag of popcorn on that butter face!

$4million$ (4, Insightful)

quenda (644621) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334014)

> a $4 million dollar spacecraft

So what's a square dollar worth these days?

(this _is_ news for nerds)

Re:$4million$ (1)

mazarin5 (309432) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334342)

I don't know, but I look forward to converting my money over and then cashing in on the interest!

Re:Pandaemonium (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334306)

This is the first time I've heard of technology that's DESIGNED to gather dust. Usually that just happens by accident.

There's a difference between becoming dust and gathering dust.
     

Re:Pandaemonium (4, Informative)

Zoxed (676559) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334596)

OK, you were probably going for Funny mods, but the Stardust Spacecraft [wikipedia.org] was also designed to gather dust (I am not sure if it was the first ).

Re:Pandaemonium (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23335388)

Never heard about vacuum cleaners? Your mum would be delighted to let you both meet...

Re:Pandaemonium (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23335438)

$4 million for a vacuum cleaner?

$4 million to make it work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23333810)

... $80 million to show how a government bureaucracy can destroy the program, thus proving that NASA should get more funding because space development can't be left in the hands of amateurs. (That doesn't make sense? I don't get it either, but I've seen it happen.)

Yeah, I'm disillusioned. NASA doesn't impress me any more. People working without any connection to (or expectation of reward from) NASA... that's impressive. Ansari X-Prize FTW.

I'd be a lot happier if these guys could go it alone.

Re:$4 million to make it work... (1)

timmarhy (659436) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333882)

they pioneered space travel. if that doesn't impress you wtf does?????

Re:$4 million to make it work... (4, Insightful)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333964)

The Russians invented Space travel... with dogs... they were also the first in human orbit/flight...

NASA does have the first human to visit and return from another (tries to find the word)...the moon...

They do have an impressive roster though, the Saturn V, the Shuttle, etc... but most of their accomplishments can't really even be claimed as "American" (as in the 'United States Of') because most of their key employees were/are form other countries... they are kind of like Microsoft (or any other large company) in that way, we'll buy them so we can say its ours...

Re:$4 million to make it work... (2)

Deimos24601 (904979) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334126)

most of their key employees were/are from other countries...
So basically you're saying that they are American then...

Re:$4 million to make it work... (2)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334298)

True enough, but I consider anyone born in the US, as from the US... even if their parents were born in another country, what I meant was fully grown adults that have already gone through schooling/training/etc in another country and then hired/bought/brought to the US to work for NASA.

Re:$4 million to make it work... (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23334506)

because most of their key employees were/are form other countries
How funny. USSR AND America did have the same group of key ppl; the Germans from WWII. The difference is that USSR forced most of theirs to work as outsiders, while in the US, ALL choose to be American citizens. Big difference there.

With that said, I agree with your first statement. The USSR owns the majority of the firsts. Of course, none of it was by much. In fact, USSR took numerous shortcuts so that they could beat America.

Re:$4 million to make it work... (4, Funny)

pipatron (966506) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334656)

Yes, obviously, because no matter what anyone else claims, the US of A is naturally the best. The scientists in Russia was of course FORCED to work, and the scientists in USA were happy to do it! And yeah well, maybe some other countries are technically better, but that's because USA didn't want to be better. And also it only looks like they are better, but they did it in the wrong way, and if USA would have done it the same way, USA would have been even better!

Re:$4 million to make it work... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23335202)

In all honesty, the US could have sent a rocket into space earlier - they didn't because they didn't consider it a race and didn't want the rocket program directly in the hands of the US Navy. Once Russia sent one into space it became a race and Cold War proxy, and the US followed Russia's achievements shortly after, and then planted a flag on the moon, and then realized they already had the technology to build ICBMs and further research at blasting manned ICBMs to the moon was a waste of money.

Anyway, it's looking at the issues as some kind of competition, rather than a valid point - looking back at Soviet Russia, it's clear that while it was capable of a few scientific mega-projects, it wasn't capable of sustained scientific or technological improvements at anywhere near the levels of the United States. Say what you want about the US's half-tolerance of Intelligent Design, it hasn't killed millions of lives, the way the state-supported Lysenkoism did. You don't have to be jingoistic - the Soviet system just sucked, it's an objective truth.

Re:$4 million to make it work... (2, Insightful)

ArcherB (796902) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335922)

The scientists in Russia was of course FORCED to work, and the scientists in USA were happy to do it!
I hope you misread his post because if you didn't, you intentionally distorted it. He said the formerly Nazi German Scientists were forced to work. There was a huge difference between a captured scientist from a defeated country and a native one, in the eyes of the Soviets.

And yes, many German scientists were seeking out American soldiers toward the end of WWII because they feared what the Russians would make them do.

Re:$4 million to make it work... (2, Funny)

mrbluze (1034940) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335452)

The Russians invented Space travel... with dogs... they were also the first in human orbit/flight...
But the Russians suck at faking moon landings.

Gathering dust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23333814)

An $80,000,000.00 project to gather dust?

Not just dust, Moon dust (1)

Plazmid (1132467) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334184)

You need to know what the Moon is made of before you send Von-Neumann machines to it to bring about our doom.

Re:Not just dust, Moon dust (1)

Bieeanda (961632) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334292)

Von-Neumann machines? They're already there. [amazon.com]

LADEE (2, Funny)

vought (160908) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333818)

From the summary:

.... they offered Weston and his team $80 million to use their design for the LADEE mission, which will gather dust....
Well, if they're just going to let it sit around, I'll take it.

Re:LADEE (4, Informative)

jkua (1159581) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334002)

The summary is incorrect - Weston was not offered $80 million for the design, NASA simply wanted to use their design for an $80 million dollar mission.

From TFA:

When high-ranking NASA officials saw a flight test, they were impressed enough to include the team in an $80 million dollar mission to the moon.
Which makes far more sense - why would NASA pay money for a design that was developed with its own money?

Re:LADEE (2, Funny)

Half-pint HAL (718102) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335212)

I thought there was something funny there. $4 million spacecraft. $80 million. =>20 spacecraft? Unlikely.

But what you said makes more sense.

Of course, I could have read TFA myself, but why bother duplicate effort when someone else has already read it?

I call this philosophy Slashdot OpenRTFA.

HAL.

Re:LADEE (1)

AlHunt (982887) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335716)

The summary is incorrect - Weston was not offered $80 million for the design, NASA simply wanted to use their design for an $80 million dollar mission. From TFA:

When high-ranking NASA officials saw a flight test, they were impressed enough to include the team in an $80 million dollar mission to the moon.
Which makes far more sense - why would NASA pay money for a design that was developed with its own money?

In government-ese it just makes more sense to pay $80M for something you already bought once for $4M.

I have a lots of projects that just collect dust. (2, Funny)

k3ith (1113353) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333836)

How about, lets say, $20M?

Bullshit! (2, Informative)

Vectronic (1221470) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333862)

"Dr. Alan Weston, who previously invented bungee jumping"

Yeah, and I invented bicycle jumping... and I was a mere 7 years old...

He may have helped (along with some others) re-invent it, or modernize it... but he did not invent it...

Re:Bullshit! (2, Informative)

MidnightBrewer (97195) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334020)

Yes, ignoring the entire country of New Zealand and its native Maori, who have been using vines to bungee jump from wooden towers for hundreds of years, it's possible that he invented it.

Re:Bullshit! (2, Funny)

Oldav (533444) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334134)

I think they only count when it is humans, rather than Kiwi's.......(:

Re:Bullshit! (2, Funny)

edcheevy (1160545) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334196)

Everyone knows Kiwis don't bungee jump, they bungee fall (very different, of course) because gravity is opposite down there. Or something like that... ;)

Re:Bullshit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23334262)

The country your thinking of is Vanuatu.

Re:Bullshit! (5, Informative)

yuda (704374) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334304)

It wasn't the Maori that pioneered bungy jumping, it was the 'land divers' of Pentecost Island in Vanuatu that pioneered it. It was first filmed in the '50s by David Attenborough and the first credited bungee jump using modern materials was done by the 'Dangerous Sports Club' which included Dr. Alan Weston in 1979. Later A.J Hackett of New Zealand pioneered the commercial bungee jump operation

So the article is slightly inaccurate and perhaps should have said: "Dr. Alan Weston, who previously help pioneer modern bungee jumping".

And yes wikipedia is my firend

Re:Bullshit! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23335764)

Damn - they found out about our New Zealand space program - combines the Auckland Sky Tower bungee jump and the Commodore C64 game 'Sheep In Space' game ...

Re:Bullshit! (2, Funny)

Walt Dismal (534799) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335052)

The article misquotes. You see Dr. Weston was the first to invent bungee LAUNCHING of spacecraft. On the first low-cost launch, Mission Control was heard to say "WHEEEOOOO!!!!!! What a rush!!!". On the other hand, the astronauts inside the vehicle had other words to describe the experience. As this is a family newspaper, we cannot quote them here in full. However. Dr. Weston's mother was mentioned.

Re:Bullshit! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23335464)

About misquotes...

Article:
When high-ranking NASA officials saw a flight test, they were impressed enough to include the team in an $80 million dollar mission to the moon.

Slashdot story:
When NASA officials saw the first flight test, they offered Weston and his team $80 million to use their design

Ask Weston if he can tell the difference ;)

what took the so long? (5, Insightful)

Dannkape (1195229) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333870)

Seriously, why didn't they start with this like 20 years ago? Basic platform with propulsion, power and communication, with a few slots for special equipment, like cameras, radars, sample collection, or whatever is needed for that probe?

Two words: (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23333884)

Seriously, why didn't they start with this like 20 years ago? Basic platform with propulsion, power and communication, with a few slots for special equipment, like cameras, radars, sample collection, or whatever is needed for that probe?
Gentoo users.

Re:what took the so long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23334088)

Obviously they didn't have you around to tell them how stupid they are. Luckily now that you are here, the space program will race ahead like never before.

Try 30 years ago (5, Informative)

GileadGreene (539584) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334428)

Around 30 years ago NASA was messing with the Multimission Modular Spacecraft (MMS) [nasa.gov] , which was in use for 10+ years [nasa.gov] . Some 10 years ago there was a lot of activity around the highly modular SMEX-Lite [nasa.gov] bus for smaller missions. On the other side of the pond, Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. [sstl.co.uk] has been doing cheap, highly modular spacecraft buses since the early 1980s. The US DoD and its various contractors have played with the idea at various times in the last couple of decades as well, most recently in the guise of "operationally responsive space" and "plug-and-play spacecraft". Needless to say, the concept is not particularly new. It just waxes and wanes in popularity depending on what kind of tradeoffs between mission cost and mission performance are acceptable.

Re:Try 30 years ago (1)

Migraineman (632203) | more than 6 years ago | (#23336690)

And don't forget about NASA's Get Away Special [nasa.gov] (GAS) program on the Shuttle. Standardized containers carry experiments. [wikipedia.org] That program was initiated in the mid 1970s. I know there are both closed and "exposure" options, but I don't recall if they allow deployments. Pro'lly not.

Re:what took the so long? (5, Insightful)

John Meacham (1112) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334480)

We did start with this 20 years ago. We had 5 pioneers, a handful of rangers, a pair of voyagers and so forth. Every one of those was a learning experience getting us to the point we are today. We are now at a point that we are relatively confident enough in our abilities and have enough knowledge about what will and won't work to go forward with a generic platform. This _is_ the cumulation of 20 years of working on the problem of space exploration.

Re:what took the so long? (4, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334700)

Seriously, why didn't they start with this like 20 years ago? Basic platform with propulsion, power and communication, with a few slots for special equipment, like cameras, radars, sample collection, or whatever is needed for that probe?

They've started with it, and subsequently dropped it, multiple times. Mostly because this is one of those ideas that seems great on paper, but doesn't actually work out too well in real life.
 
Some probes need 3 axis stabilization, others can simply spin, yet others can use gravity gradient. Some probes need to dissipate a lot of heat from their instruments, others much less. One probe has a handful of instruments each the size of your PC desktop, another probe has a single instrument the size of a small car. Etc... Etc...
 
The number of possible permutations is simply too large to be accommodated by any single standard bus, or even a reasonable number of standardized buses. To get an idea of the scale of the problem - imagine trying to base every wheeled vehicle on the road from an 18-wheeler down to a motor scooter off of a single standard bus

Re:what took the so long? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23335182)

Because they are:

1. Penpushers who use large budget numbers in their mating rituals.

2. MBA half-breeds that believe outsourcing is the answer to everything, yet rarely check on their sub-contractors or their bills.

3. Americans living in a culture of extreme opulence and waste.

Re:what took the so long? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23335478)

If your launch cost is huge, then the (relatively) small cost of customising your craft to get a slight optimisation in usage is irrelevant.

It is only when launching a sattelite becomes more affordable that it starts to make sense and accept some compromises with a generic platform.

Re:what took the so long? (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335482)

As a matter of fact it's not so new an idea. The same basic Mariner probe was used for missions to Mars, Venus and Mercury in the seventies. Similarly, ESA recently followed up Mars Express with Venus Express, a suspiciously similar spaceprobe.

Re:what took the so long? (4, Insightful)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335490)

They've tried, but it has never been popular with the people who build new satellites. They're not adverse to stealing good designs from existing satellites. The problem with "one size fits all" is that it's often a poor fit. They would rather tailor the satellite to the mission.

Re:what took the so long? (2, Insightful)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 6 years ago | (#23336238)

Because there was never enough volume (numerical) to justify a modular approach. Modularity carries a weight penalty in the form of interfaces, unused slots, underutilized features, etc. A modular platform will generally be heavier and bulkier than a custom-built system. That can be unattractive when you're dealing with the mass, volume, and cost constraints of a launch vehicle.

Finally using some common sense (2, Interesting)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333876)

It's been so long since these guys used common sense in looking at budgets and what they could do with them, it's a damned fine refreshing change.

If only this "lets make the best with what we have while someone else tries to get us more" approach would filter through to more government bodies/groups.

Re:Finally using some common sense (2, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333938)

Watch as this project never sees use.

Pork belly politics doesn't work this way.

And yet, NASA regularly uses common designs (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334554)

The simple fact is that many of the previous NASA projects build upon common arch.:
  1. The 2 Mars rovers.
  2. The Mars Vikings.
  3. The pioneer series.
  4. The Voyager series.
Etc, etc, etc.
The simple fact is, that NASA does tend to use common arch. but it also has it downfall. THe original Mars Polar Lander and the aborted Mars Surveyor 2001 Lander had common arch. Of course the 2001 lander became the new Pheonix, that is inbound to mars as we write.

Even this probe will only be used for a few missions, to as many as 10. But by then, new designs and idea will abound, and it will be discarded.

He invented what?? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23333902)

Invented Bungee Jumping? I think you'll discover he invented neither the name or the practice..
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bungee_jumping

The practice comes from Pentecost Island in Vanuatu (where I have been, and witnessed) with a manhood test involving young men jumping off platforms with vines tied around their feet.

This was adapted by A. J. Hackett in New Zealand to the modern elasticised version, who also gave it the name Bungee Jumping.

Where does Weston like telling people he came into this all?

Re:He invented what?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23334244)

Perhaps he meant orbital bungie jumping?

Re:He invented what?? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23335168)

Try reading the fuckin' article you linked to, for starters.

NASA cutting costs? Hardly. (4, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333906)

Suppose you were to ask NASA why they don't provide the complete blueprints for their spacecraft to the general public.. not the launch vehicles mind you, the actual spacecraft - there's no national security concerns here. They'll tell you that they don't *own* the blueprints.. the companies they contract to do. So if you ask them why they don't demand the blueprints when they contract for the spacecraft, they'll tell you that this would cost more. So they're saving money by not demanding the blueprints.

This, of course, is crazy. If they were to demand blueprints from the contractor for the first model of a particular spacecraft and then make those blueprints available to the general public then, the next time they want to contract for a similar spacecraft, they'll find there are a whole mess of companies lining up to bid.. and to bid very low indeed - as they don't have to spend all that money designing a basic spacecraft - they don't have to re-invent the wheel.

As the bids are so much lower, NASA could then start asking for more capable spacecraft.. and quickly a publicly owned repository of blueprints would be built up that all the various contractors could work with.

But instead, we get million dollar spacecraft from the same 3 contractors, over and over again. No standardization, no spin-offs for other purposes.

Re:NASA cutting costs? Hardly. (4, Informative)

Concerned Onlooker (473481) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334190)

I'm not sure about the veracity of your statements, but I would conjecture that the blueprints would be nothing more than very cool wallpaper as most craft built to date have been ad hoc creations to house specific instruments with specific needs. The new design will no doubt save money but the instruments will now have to be shoe-horned into that architecture. And that may very well work for the most part.

In addition, here is a site that people should be aware of. It is a database of all the NASA tech that has been spun off into private industry [nasa.gov] . For instance, JPL developed shake testers to test spacecraft and instruments for their ability to withstand launch stress. Now JPL buys their shake testers from a an outside company.

Re:NASA cutting costs? Hardly. (0)

coldmist (154493) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334424)

Shake tester?

Can I have that job? I like chocolate, strawberry, and marshmallow. I will even eat shakes made with oreos or candy bar chunks.

I think I qualify as an "outside company" ;)

Re:NASA cutting costs? Hardly. (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335468)

Reality called, she wanted to know why you no longer visit her.

Not everything in this world is the result of a conspiracy. There are national security concerns for anything involving space flight. Any release of technology has to be approved by an export control officer.

Re:NASA cutting costs? Hardly. (0, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335504)

Not everything in this world is the result of a conspiracy.
I never said or implied it was.

There are national security concerns for anything involving space flight. Any release of technology has to be approved by an export control officer.
Wow, kinda sounds like people are conspiring to keep that information secret.

Re:NASA cutting costs? Hardly. (1)

Detritus (11846) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335538)

It's the result of bureaucracy. After several incidents where militarily useful technology was improperly transferred to the wrong people, and heads rolled, they decided to require the approval of an export control officer for all transfers of technology. It's more paperwork, but it's supposed to prevent a repetition of earlier mistakes.

invented bungee jumping eh? (0, Redundant)

the brown guy (1235418) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333914)

If you check the wikipedia page on bungee jumping, (sorry don't know how to provide the link to the page) there is no mention of Weston. Instead, it says some young men from some random island in Vanuatu used to jump off of cliffs with vines tied to their ankles to show that they are courageous.

Wait, was that like a joke or something?

Re:invented bungee jumping eh? (1)

Fluffeh (1273756) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334000)

Bungee Jumping [wikipedia.org] on Wikipedia.org

Re:invented bungee jumping eh? (1)

Deimos24601 (904979) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334166)

And if you click on the link in the Wikipedia article for "Dangerous Sports Club", the group that performed the first modern bungee jump, you'll see that Alan Weston was one of the four founding members.

Re:invented bungee jumping eh? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23334282)

Yes. It is quite unsexy if a PhD only starts a fashion (of bungee jumping). But inventing, even if that is only "re-inventing", well, that is something different. And it surely gives him credibility as a space ship builder. Right? ;)

Re:invented bungee jumping eh? (2, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334260)

sorry don't know how to provide the link to the page
  • Go to the wiki page in another browser tab.
  • click on the address bar, press [ctrl-a] to highlight the entire address, and then [ctrl-c] to copy the URL to your clipboard.
  • go back to your Slashdot tab, and type <a href="
  • press [ctrl-v] to paste the URL.
  • type "> followed by some clever text for the link
  • type </a> at the end of the clever text.
  • Make sure your slashdot comment type is HTML Formatted
For example, <a href="www.example.com">like this</a> looks like this [example.com] .

So let me get this straight (1)

Leuf (918654) | more than 6 years ago | (#23333986)

NASA is buying a $4 million satellite from itself for $80 million? That is going to be one awesome $76 million dollar launch party, except for all the rocket scientist dweebs hanging around at it.

Re:So let me get this straight (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23337038)

No, the $4 Million only gets you an air-powered prototype that can't actually do what you need.

If you want something that actually does what you need it will cost $80Million.

What a waste (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23334068)

When NASA officials saw the first flight test, they offered Weston and his team $80 million to use their design for the LADEE mission, which will gather dust
80 million for a project that's just going to sit and collect dust?

Modular? (1)

Tablizer (95088) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334324)

It will get hacked, and grow into a race of transformers that come back to earth to take over. I've seen it in the movies. Be very scared!
       

payloads of 50 kg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23334468)

damn! i guess this project isn't gonna help me with my dream of visiting the moon. but my sister-in-law would fit in it.

Armadillo Aerospace spent $3.5M for real rockets (1)

ddt (14627) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334472)

Scan to the bottom of this link, and you'll see the budget:
http://armadilloaerospace.com/n.x/Armadillo/Home/News?news_id=357 [armadilloaerospace.com]

$4M for some scuba gear with ambition or $3.5M for the real thing? Hmm...

replacement for the standard Imperial Probe Droid? (1)

nightrain_tg (308053) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334514)

Have they cleared these for use on ice planets like Hoth? The previous model defended itself valiantly against a group of insurgents before finally succumbing to the ol' "you draw it out and I'll sneak around and nail it from the side" tactic. Lord Vader will not be pleased if the upgrade does not solve this problem.

Running Linux ? (1)

Mr Europe (657225) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334604)

I guess it will be running Linux, of course.

In Soviet Russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23334634)

In Soviet Russia $80M would buy you whole NASA couterpart.

I don't want to brag, but... (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#23334902)

"The Modular Common Spacecraft Bus is designed to accept payloads of up to 50kg.

I've taken dumps bigger than that.

Re:I don't want to brag, but... (1)

vidarh (309115) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335110)

I really don't want to ever meet you.

Re:I don't want to brag, but... (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335658)

Thanks for my morning laugh. Started the day off just right.

Bungee cord for return trip? (1)

Circlotron (764156) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335006)

I suppose he will have a bungee cord attached to make the probe automatically return to earth?

Still no better method than rockets? (1)

Thanshin (1188877) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335158)

When I was younger I expected rockets, as a way of launching objects to space, would be quickly replaced by other means.

Maybe a combination of balloons for the first Kms and some kind of land based laser for the rest?

I don't know, but rockets seem kind of old technology. Like finding musketeers in Civ when you already have tanks.

Re:Still no better method than rockets? (2, Informative)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335458)

Look up the launch mass of small satellite. Bringing it up 1 mile with a balloon would be a non trivial endeavor, and then you are a whole 0.0045% closer to geosynchronous orbit.

The west handed technology to China on a plate (2, Informative)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335350)

Otherwise they wouldn't be able to manufacture highly complex microchips, lasers etc simply because western companies were too mean to build the stuff in the west. Naturally all the knowledge the chinese gain from making this stuff will reach the chinese military so who frankly is surprised they're building a GPS rival? And if they're anything like the japanese it'll probably be *better* than the orginal.

Not such a great idea. (4, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335432)

This idea of doing spacecraft on the cheap comes up every few years.

In general, it's poor economy.

You see you have the fixed cost of the rocket, launchpad, and launch team. Many tens of millions of dollars. Even if you drove the spacecraft cost down to zero, it won't affect the total very much.

Meanwhile all the cost is at risk if the spacecraft fails.

In general it's penny wise and pound foolish to economize on the spacecraft.

A projects for sale (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#23335586)

I have a couple of projects gathering dust - can I have a couple million?

They want to analyze _what_? (1)

MikTheUser (761482) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335654)

The moon's _atmosphere_?
Boy, those Apollo astronauts might actually have been up there, what with the waving flag and all!

[Readers are strongly advised to turn their irony detectors on]

Wait just a darn minute. (1)

egandalf (1051424) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335806)

Take this statement...

Dr. Alan Weston...led a team of scientists at NASA Ames Research Center to build a $4 million dollar spacecraft

and this one...

[NASA] offered Weston and his team $80 million to use their design

and put them together.

Sounds to me like NASA bought a design created by NASA researchers for a mere 20x the cost to make it in the first place?

What the hell?

No Payload, No Spacecraft (5, Interesting)

FurtiveGlancer (1274746) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335856)

A common satellite bus is a good thing, but it does not constitute a viable spacecraft. Like a transit bus that never carries passengers, it serves no useful purpose. The payload has always been the driving element in any satellite or probe, in schedule, budget and trade-offs. And rightfully so IMHO. I believe that's why a common bus hasn't been succesful in the past. Both NASA and the DoD have tried, but the needs of the payload outweigh the needs of the bus.

The Space Ground Link System, SGLS (note to self: submit wikipedia page in copious spare time) is analagous to a common satellite bus protocol at the physical to network layers and provides some commonality of bus structure for DoD satellites. The upper protocol layers vary but the foundation is the same.

Ask anyone who's worked in the essential, but unglamorous world of satellite control. Their biggest problem is upgrading the control network quickly enough to satisfy all the new requirements of the next big launch. New datalink frequencies, stronger encryption, faster throughput rates, etc. All the while, they have to maintain the capability to control and pamper the oldest bird flying and monitor everything in between.

It's not a bad thing that satellites outlive their design life, but it has to be considered when operating and budgeting for the control network.

Is it spherical? (3, Funny)

Comboman (895500) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335896)

I hope the probe is spherical, because a globe-shaped space device designed to suck up dust would logically be called ... a Dyson Sphere.

NASA License (1)

alcmaeon (684971) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335926)

I hope NASA is making money off the piss-me-off Accord ads at the beginning of the videos. If not, NASA needs to release their videos under a creative commons license.

It bothers me that a tax supported institution is giving "exclusive" video to Wired so it can run ads in front of it. Ads in the story is OK because Wired wrote the story. I didn't bother reading the story so I didn't bother reading their print ads. The vids were all I wanted to see and I didn't watch any after the first because of the ads.

Its actually all been done before. (5, Interesting)

Big Smirk (692056) | more than 6 years ago | (#23335930)

At least by 1990, NASA, DOD and Fairchild/Orbital used to run a system called "Multi Mission Modular Satellite".

So what have they done? For 4 million they built a prototype that will never work in space? Notice that when they were added to some other project the total real project price was $80M - and I'm not so sure that includes launch vehicle (ie the rocket).

Back in the day, the radio receiver (arguably the most critical part of a satellite) was $2 million all by itself. It had to be radiation hardened (cosmic rays) and work flawlessly for 5+ years. If something really went wrong, the receiver would send the pulses that actually re-booted or reset the other on board computers.

Also satellites that have instruments, like the hubble, need to point very precisely at stars - the instruments to do this are very expensive, the controls that orient the satellites are relatively cheap - but you have to buy extra (redundancy).

Imagine this, the Hubble Space Telescope has to point at a spot in space for long time - once for 1 million seconds ( Hubble Site [hubblesite.org] ) During that period of time, the solar arrays, antennas etc. couldn't move because even the ultra smooth stepper motors they use would have shaken the spacecraft enough to blur the image.

That being said, there are 100s, if not 1000s of neat little projects that potentially save NASA money - like using standard Internet protocols to talk to spacecraft (tweak the timeouts a bit) - which would mean ground stations would use pretty much standard router hardware vs. custom stuff. It good to see some of these ideas get the exposure they deserve.

However, most satellites are designed with requirements for the instrumentation. The rest of the satellite is designed around those requirements. Unless you have a very flexible design in your spacecraft bus, the scientific part of the mission might be compromised.

So this lander might work - how many g's on impact? (err... landing). What is the success chance? Do I take my $50million instrument and put it on a $10 million lander that has a 30% chance of success? Or do I build a $20 million lander that has an 80% chance? or a $30 Million that has 95% chance? If I pick wrong, I'm sure that I will not get another $100 million to fly the mission again. Perhaps a lifetime of research goes down the toilet...

Your Tax $ (1)

GigG (887839) | more than 6 years ago | (#23336846)

Leave it to NASA to pay $80Mil for a $4Mil product.

Dust (1)

slapout (93640) | more than 6 years ago | (#23337590)

Wow. $80 million to "gather dust." That's not bad for a government project.

Uh Invented bungee jumping? (1)

NetNinja (469346) | more than 6 years ago | (#23337724)

I believe the correct tearm would be improved vine jumping.

He used modern materials to improve what is called vine jumping.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bungee_jumping [wikipedia.org]

"In the 1950s David Attenborough and a BBC film crew brought back footage of the "land divers" of Pentecost Island in Vanuatu, young men who jumped from tall wooden platforms with vines tied to their ankles as a test of courage."

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