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Nasa Details Shuttle's Retirement

CmdrTaco posted more than 6 years ago | from the you-can-see-your-house-from-there dept.

NASA 400

schliz writes "Nasa has announced that it intends to officially retire the aging space shuttle fleet by 2010, four years before it has a replacement craft ready. The space shuttle fleet will make ten more flights, mainly to add modules to the International Space Station and carry out repairs and upgrades to the Hubble orbital telescope. The retirement will leave the US without orbital capacity for at least four years, until the Ares booster programme is complete. European and Russian launchers will service the space station in the meantime."

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Just plain sad (5, Interesting)

ShadowRangerRIT (1301549) | more than 6 years ago | (#24115879)

I'm having nostalgia for when our space program was a national priority. This, despite having no memory of any time pre-Challenger.

Re:Just plain sad (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24115911)

No joke. If you went back in time 20 or 30 years and told the NASA folks we'd spend the 2010s depending on Europe and Russia for our orbital needs, they'd smack you one.

Re:Just plain sad (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116365)

Not only that, they would think the Soviets won!

They did (0)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116593)

...all part of the devious plan of the red menace from the get-go. That's what we get for dropping our guard against C O M M U N I S M !!!!!

Re:They did (2, Funny)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116921)

I believe at this point Lenin is supposed to break out of his glass case and zombie "MUST CRUSH CAPITALISM"

Decadence (4, Interesting)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116939)

When a nation is no longer able to excel in a technology they pioneered, it's very difficult to come back. It started in the 1970s when, instead of continuing on lunar exploration, they decided to cut back on the Apollo program.

Ultimately, what will define how technology will evolve is not the day-to-day improvement but the grand vision. It doesn't matter what the immediate gains from lunar exploration were in 1973, but how long and how much effort it would take to get something practical out of the moon. Once they decided to cut back on the difficult part, the USA couldn't hold its competitiveness in the easy parts.

Today Europe is the leader in commercial space flight, with Japan, Russia, and China trying to gain more significant shares of the market. Without NASA actively developing space technology, the US industry seems to be unable to keep up with external competition.

Re:Decadence (2, Funny)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117265)

"When a nation is no longer able to excel in a technology they pioneered, it's very difficult to come back."

Yeah , its a shame what happened to Germanys rocket program.

Re:Just plain sad (4, Insightful)

spamking (967666) | more than 6 years ago | (#24115943)

I also find it sad that current launches go off with out much fan fare or press. It's like we as a Nation have become spoiled to the fact that we send folks into space these days.

I think most people don't realize (or have forgotten about it) the danger these men and women face during a mission.

Re:Just plain sad (5, Interesting)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116273)

I think most people don't realize (or have forgotten about it) the danger these men and women face during a mission.

Most people don't realise the danger construction workers face doing their jobs either. Roofers alone are #3 in Wikipedia's list [wikipedia.org] .

A dozen people died building EPCOT's "Spaceship Earth" [wikipedia.org] alone.

The US has had less than one fatal accident per decade since the space program started; the Apollo fire and the two shuttle disasters.

I'd say their safety record is pretty good. I'd rather be an astronaut than a lumberjack.

Re:Just plain sad (3, Informative)

camperdave (969942) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116405)

Roofers alone are #3 in Wikipedia's list.

Yeah! If by #3 you mean fifth. Pilots, miners, highrise steel workers, and pilots all rank above roofers.

Re:Just plain sad (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116447)

you mean 4th? .... pilots?

Re:Just plain sad (5, Funny)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116709)

Don't forget pilots.

Re:Just plain sad (1)

The_Wilschon (782534) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117109)

Three, sir! Three!

Re:Just plain sad (1)

192939495969798999 (58312) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116643)

It's not that you might die, it's how many different horrible ways you could die. Also, the shuttle is suppposed to be a matter of national pride, launches should be celebrated like the 4th of July.

Also, spaceship earth is a big ball. If you didn't know putting a roof on a big ball would be dangerous... well, let's just say there's more than one reason houses have "flat" roofs.

Re:Just plain sad (5, Funny)

Stanistani (808333) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116813)

I'd rather be an astronaut than a lumberjack.

I'm a lumberjack and I'm OK.

Re:Just plain sad (0, Redundant)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117155)

I sleep all night and I work all day.

Re:Just plain sad (5, Interesting)

OwnedByTwoCats (124103) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117089)

The wikipedia list of most dangerous jobs left off "President of the United States". 9524 out of 100,000 (i.e. 4 of 42) were killed. Another 4 died; one of those was from an illness contracted performing his official duties.

That death rate is way higher than the 122 per 100,000 listed for Timber Cutters.

Re:Just plain sad (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117229)

Rather than being a lumberjack, I wish I'd been a girlie, just like my dear Mama.

Re:Just plain sad (1)

Leebert (1694) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117299)

Most people don't realise the danger construction workers face doing their jobs either. Roofers alone are #3 in Wikipedia's list.

That list is in deaths per 100,000. The worst (timber cutters) shows 122.1 per 100,000, a fatality rate of .12%.

Since we're quoting Wikipedia, I'll refer you to this link [wikipedia.org] which claims that 5% of those launched into space eventually died on a spaceflight.

That's a lot, lot worse. Your point is well taken that the world itself is unsafe, but the numbers show just how much more dangerous spaceflight is (an order of magnitude, by Wikipedia standards.)

Re:Just plain sad (1)

jeroen94704 (542819) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116789)

That's actually a good thing. Not to diminish the effort/risk/dedication/etc required, but we will only become a truly spacefaring race when the launch of a manned spacecraft is no longer news. Can you imagine a headline every time a jetliner takes off or lands safely? No, because it happens so often, and is so safe, it's become mundane. When we reach that point with spacecraft launching and landing, I for one will be out to celebrate!

Re:Just plain sad (1)

OwnedByTwoCats (124103) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117383)

The flight of Apollo 13 had become mundane. In flight press conferences were not carried live by the TV networks.

Until the accident...

Re:Just plain sad (1)

RobBebop (947356) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117153)

I also find it sad that current launches go off with out much fan fare or press. It's like we as a Nation have become spoiled to the fact that we send folks into space these days.

Surprisingly, I have seen the last two shuttle launches covered by articles in mainstream media sites and on the nightly news. These launches added the Japanese research lab and the Canadian Arm to the ISS.

What isn't surprising is that prior to that NASA hadn't really had a goal to strive towards because Apollo was such a major achievement that figuring out where to go from there was a huge problem. Asteroids? Venus? Mars? Jupiter? Alpha Centuri? Lagrange Points? Space station?

Skylab (which cannibalized resources from three unlaunched/canceled Apollo missions) was the path towards the ISS. Hubble was a path towards exploring deep space to learn more about it. Numerous unmanned probes were sent around the solar system during the 4 decades since Apollo to do the important job of information gathering.

Only now is there a clear goal for NASA to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on: a Lunar Outpost and men on Mars. We didn't have the technology for this 40 years ago. With a little bit on invention, that hurdle can be leaped in the next couple years.

Nothing new...see Apollo TV ratings (1)

flattop100 (624647) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117207)

The same thing happened after landed on the Moon. After the first couple landings, TV viewing fell off dramatically, to the point where the last Apollo mission was nearly ignored.

Re:Just plain sad (1)

OldSoldier (168889) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117367)

I gotta wonder how that 4-year gap played into NASA's decision making process. I'm old enough to recall when the shuttle first launched after a similar gap from the last Apollo mission (which IIRC were missions to Skylab). When the Shuttle blasted off for many of those first missions it was big news and public interest ran high.

I imagine NASA is interested in being in the public eye. I also imagine that there are some there who think this 4-year gap is a horrible thing, but I conjecture that, on balance, NASA gave this gap little weight. The pros balancing the cons.

Re:Just plain sad (4, Insightful)

PunkOfLinux (870955) | more than 6 years ago | (#24115947)

Yes, but catching those derned ter'rists is WAY more important than science, education, helping people get off welfare, or anything else that money could possibly be used for. Ten billion a month, and all we get is death and destruction.

Re:Just plain sad (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116885)

At least oil is still a high priority. Thank God for that much.

Re:Just plain sad (1)

Gilmoure (18428) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117175)

Coming from Florida, I'm glad they have a tourist season, so we can all do our part, fighting tourism.

Re:Just plain sad (2, Insightful)

rodrigoandrade (713371) | more than 6 years ago | (#24115955)

I guess it'd be a priority if the satellites and space shuttles could kill Iraquis.

Re:Just plain sad (1)

Slimee (1246598) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116211)

Let's outfit them with the riggin's then

Re:Just plain sad (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116489)

parent is not a troll.... the us gets all kinds of political power for killing the bad guys. If they could 'kill the bad guys' and do science they could possibly be talked into it. Also a post more or less the same right above it is marked insightful wth.

Re:Just plain sad (1)

Zorbane (1095631) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116767)

Grandparent is a troll. The post above it that says "more or less the same" thing is speaking of priorities of killing terrorists vs anything else, a debatable position even if one does not agree with it. The GP would seem to state the goal as killing Iraqis in general. Had it said "could kill terrorists" or even 'terrorists' in quotes, THEN it would be saying what the previous post said. As it stands, the best interpretation that can be put on it is that someone is just trying to impel sewage in a circular flow.

Re:Just plain sad (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117323)

Ah I totally missed that. But then again the american 'war on terror' is a joke so it can't be trolled. Less than a third of the US is for it. over 90% of the world globally is against it. I remember reading that before the war started even Israel was against it (havent seen new polls since).

Re:Just plain sad (3, Insightful)

Jugalator (259273) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116151)

Yes, but it depends on how you look at it. I never really liked the cost inefficiency of the space shuttle program. Many lessons were learned, but I don't think this change is for the worse.

Better than nothing. (1)

Viol8 (599362) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117287)

Would you rather have a car thats expensive to run or no car at all and have to rely on friends to give you rides?

Baby steps (4, Informative)

mangu (126918) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116337)

The space program became too costly. The shuttle was announced as a cost-saving project, a reusable space craft. The problem is that they should have tried to crawl before they tried to walk.

There were projects in the late 1950s, the X-15 and the Dyna-Soar, to develop reusable "space planes", but not much came of them. The logical progression would have been to improve and expand these, but instead they chose to try to adapt existing disposable rockets into a reusable spacecraft.

Okay, government tried and ultimately failed, now private enterprise has started from where the X-15 and X-20 stopped [wikipedia.org] . Let's see how it goes.

Re:Baby steps (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116495)

Don't look to SpaceShipOne as a model for a reusable spaceplane. Those guys went for a hybrid motor because of its much greater simplicity than a liquid motor, but the price of that simplicity is a lack of scalability. The fuel tank and the combustion chamber are the same thing, so you can't test the engine independent of its tankage like you can with liquid engines. Not a problem for something small like SS1, but when you get towards the size of an F1 engine it becomes a very significant problem.

There is a reason why hybrids have never been used for orbital space flight, you know.

Huhh? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117259)

"The fuel tank and the combustion chamber are the same thing,"
How is that any different than a solid rocket booster? It isn't, but with a hybrid you at least have the option to abort the run or only do a partial burn.

The reason that hybrids have not been used for orbital flight is that they tend to have a lower specific impulse than liquid fueled systems and are more complex than solid fueled systems.

China (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116491)

Space was never a national priority. One-upmanship was, because of the fight for space dominance with the USSR. Give it some time, and history will repeat itself with China. Only China will probably win this time. Unless we find a better way to cooperate, of course.

Not news, and why Austrailia? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24115909)

NPRs been running this, as have the Orlando area news media for a while now. Why am I reading this on /. from a source in Australia?

Gaaaa!

How come? (4, Interesting)

neokushan (932374) | more than 6 years ago | (#24115925)

How come they're retiring the fleet 4 years before the next craft is ready? Is is actually more economical to pay the Russians or us Eurotrash to send them to space rather than the cost of maintaining and flying the shuttle?

Re:How come? (5, Insightful)

Karrde45 (772180) | more than 6 years ago | (#24115961)

The money for developing Ares comes in large part from the money currently allocated for shuttle operations. Barring an increase in NASA's budget, any prolonging of shuttle ops will primarily postpone the gap, not shrink it.

Re:How come? (1)

neokushan (932374) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116069)

So are they downscaling all of their operations in the interim or is it just the shuttles not being used?
Like if they normally have (completely arbitrary figure) 50 astronaut flights in a year, will this drop down to like 10 or 12, or will they just be using European/Russian capsules instead and have the same number as usual?

If it's the latter, then it shows it MUST be cheaper to use them than maintaining the current fleet, which could indicate all sorts of things, such as how much technology has evolved and become more efficient since the shuttle was designed.

Re:How come? (5, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116007)

How come they're retiring the fleet 4 years before the next craft is ready?

The reason given is that the development of the new launch system costs money. There is no added budget to develop it, so the money to design and build the new system has to come from some other part of the budget. The budget they're using is the budget to fly the shuttle. So, in short, they can't develop new system until they free up money to do so by stopping flying the old one.

Is is actually more economical to pay the Russians or us Eurotrash to send them to space rather than the cost of maintaining and flying the shuttle?

Yes... up until the point when the Russians raise prices because they have a monopoly.

Re:How come? (2, Interesting)

neokushan (932374) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116247)

Suddenly it reminds me of that Speach Dick gives in Robocop...

"Take a close look at the track record of this company, and you'll see that we've gambled in markets traditionally regarded as non-profit: hospitals, prisons, space exploration. I say good business is where you find it."

Good business, indeed.

Re:How come? (5, Insightful)

mapsjanhere (1130359) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116285)

On the economics, the shuttle was never the cheapest solution. Originally the idea was to be able to turn that thing around on the pad, and send it back up after fueling.
As it turned out, the refit of the shuttle after each flight is about as costly as a Saturn V launch. Now, the Saturn V could lift 100 tons into orbit, the shuttle 30. You can do the math on cost per pound.

Re:How come? (4, Interesting)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116415)

As it turned out, the refit of the shuttle after each flight is about as costly as a Saturn V launch. Now, the Saturn V could lift 100 tons into orbit, the shuttle 30. You can do the math on cost per pound.

No, not really. A shuttle launch is about half the cost of a Saturn V, even by the highest-cost estimates for shuttle. Saturn V was not a cheap booster by per-launch calculations. It was cheap by per-ton calculations, but in the 70s there weren't any payloads high-lift vehicles.

Shuttle was intended to be cheap to fly when it was flown at high rate, because the fixed costs would go down. It never ended up flying at a rate high enough to make the assumption correct. The marginal costs of the shuttle are actually not terribly bad-- it's the fixed cost that is high. (Which is why it isn't good enough to simply reduce the flight rate-- you don't save much by decreasing the rate when most of the cost is in the fixed cost.)

The Shuttle is a Cool Failure (4, Interesting)

tjstork (137384) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116321)

The reason given is that the development of the new launch system costs money. There is no added budget to develop it, so the money to design and build the new system has to come from some other part of the budget

The problem, really, is that the shuttle is too darned old. The program never really lived up to its promise as a cheap way to get into space. Originally, the Shuttle was supposed to bring launch costs down to something like $100/lb and have a two week turnaround time. What we have sucks! The Shuttle was to be a stepping stone for cheap space flight for everyone and what we have now is an overly expensive turkey. Imagine your commercial airliner whipping out a big camera to look at its underside to see if it is safe to land. That's what the shuttle does. It's a joke!

Among many problems, the shuttle's tiles have a knack for getting dinged or falling off on every flight, and that means a much, much more expensive turnaround. A built in design flaw of having the rocket on the side of the shuttle basically means that the already fragile tiles now have to get damaged. Then you have consumables to refill or refurbish that aren't as easy as topping off a tank, and instead of a reusable space plane that makes space cheap, we have expensive space plane that has to be semi-rebuilt every time we fly it.

Cool technology, in that, the shuttle is practically a space station in its own right... it has a nice big roomy crew compartment, and the cargo bay is cool. But, the job of the shuttle was to be cheap to fly, not so that space stations would cost 100 billion dollars, and have a few astronauts, but should be costing 2 billion dollars, and be like hotels.

All of these scientists bitching about the cost of manned spaceflight do have a point. But they forget they are bitching about the expense of manned flight in an era where NASA, by flying the shuttle, has seemingly invented the most expensive way to do it possible. There's nothing magical about the Russian space program or its expense.. just imagine, for the amount of money we've ploughed into NASA just to orbit the earth and do nothing in the shuttle, we could back on the moon AND mars.

So yeah, kill it. Bum a ride for a few years, then we go to the moon, to mars, and to asteroids, and get back to exploring space again.

I'm excited!

Re:The Shuttle is a Cool Failure (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116719)

What was supposed to be a spaceship turned out to be a big splashdown pod with wheels that needed to be rebuilt after each launch. Epic fail.

Re:How come? (2, Interesting)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116107)

Since when have us Eurotrash had a manned space capability? Given the Chinese seem to have forgotten about Shenzhou, the Russians have the market cornered. We have an opportunity to work on them on CSTS (A sort of bastard child of Soyuz and ATV that would provide cheap and cheerful manned access to the moon and beyond) but we are probably too bloody tight fisted to take advantage of it.

Re:How come? (1)

Stroot (223139) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116569)

*puts tin-foil hat on*

Don't worry, they still have the secret military shuttle!

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

That's ok. (4, Funny)

AltGrendel (175092) | more than 6 years ago | (#24115959)

The Chinese will fill in for us.

We'll outsource NASA, just like everything else.

Re:That's ok. (1)

iphitus (897164) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116539)

NASA's already outsourced.

NASA doesn't do anything. They're just a bureau of administration. They hand out money so that others can do things.

NASA don't do research, they fund others to do research. Training astronauts? Spacehab. Maintain and launch the Shuttles? United Space Alliance (Boeing+Lockheed). Build SRB's? ATK. etc.

Re:That's ok. (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116903)

The people at the JPL will be crushed to hear that.

NASA, not Nasa (5, Informative)

gunnk (463227) | more than 6 years ago | (#24115963)

Come on, folks! It's News for Nerds, you should know better!

National Aeronautics and Space Administration
(or, National Acronym Society of America) In either case, not Nasa.

Re:NASA, not Nasa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24116015)

Not if you are from "the rest of the world", i.e., not the US (and since the article is submitted from a new source in Australia, methinks its someone else in the RotW who sees this as an american failure)

Re:NASA, not Nasa (1)

will_die (586523) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116329)

Yea but can you still see your gardening equipment [wiktionary.org] from there?

Re:NASA, not Nasa (1)

jalet (36114) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116487)

Please stop to be an acronym NAZI !

Re:NASA, not Nasa (1)

Idiomatick (976696) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116703)

RADAR LASER...? Get over it. Be proud that its common enough that you don't need all caps.

Re:NASA, not Nasa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24117117)

It will always be Need Another Seven Astronauts to some of us.

Re:NASA, not Nasa (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24117267)

Maybe the submitter was from Uk.

It's not a dog's name, it's an acronym! (0, Offtopic)

ScentCone (795499) | more than 6 years ago | (#24115969)

"Nasa"?

It's NASA, for cryin' out loud. That's almost as bad as the people who pronounce it "Nassau."

The US may not have manned flight capability (4, Interesting)

Ellis D. Tripp (755736) | more than 6 years ago | (#24115979)

for a lot more than the 4 years claimed by TFA, particularly if Obama gets elected and carries out his plans to slash NASA's budget.

And if NASA goes that long without manned spaceflight capability, the "brain drain" that will result will make it even more difficult to resume manned flights even WITH the political will to do so.

Re:The US may not have manned flight capability (1, Flamebait)

pease1 (134187) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116053)

Don't worry, be happy. He'll flip flop on this as well.

Re:The US may not have manned flight capability (4, Informative)

MiniMike (234881) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116271)

From what I could find, Obama only plans to cut the Constellaton program, which is Bush's plan to send people to Mars (I guess to search for oil or terrorists). He has stated he supports funding other programs (see spacepolitics.com [spacepolitics.com] for examples).

Re:The US may not have manned flight capability (1)

Anonymous Meoward (665631) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117213)

Here's hoping the manned missions to Mars never get funded.

I for one want real research done with my tax dollars. Robots and rovers need nowhere near the care and feeding in a hostile environment that a human passenger would require. A manned mission is nothing more than an expensive stunt.

Having said that, the mission patch for Apollo XI sure looks cool.

Re:The US may not have manned flight capability (2, Informative)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117373)

Obama plans to cut all manned spaceflight program, which includes the shuttle replacement (Crew Exploration Vehicle/Orion). So while NASA's current plan might be 2014 for the shuttle replacement, if Obama is elected, we'll be looking at 2019 at the earliest. It'll probably be even longer than that, because after budget is slashed, come on now -- do you really believe it'll go back up again? It's always easy to slash, but NASA will have to fight tooth and nail to get those monies back again after the five years delay is over. Bottom line, if Obama is elected, the US is facing a decade+ of lacking the capability of sending humans into space.

Re:The US may not have manned flight capability (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24116357)

Well, he has to get money from somewhere to pay off all the special interests who are helping finance his campaign. Electing this charade of a politician would be a colossal mistake.

Ares ready by 2014? (5, Insightful)

kidgenius (704962) | more than 6 years ago | (#24115983)

That's only six years away. Call me skeptical, but I bet it's more like 2018 at this point. With all the testing that is required and work remaining, I'd be really surprised if it's done in six years.

Re:Ares ready by 2014? (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116823)

I'd be surprised if it *ever* gets done. Somewhere between 2015-2020, the boomers are going to going to be demanding their Social Security checks in record numbers. And, when those selfish bastards are asked to choose between themselves and government programs like NASA, guess who's going to lose out?

About time! Kudos to NASA leadership (4, Interesting)

pease1 (134187) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116011)

About time! Yeah! Efforts first started early 1990's to replace and retire these expensive, wasteful dogs. Who else would try to build a "truck" that needs to run at 100+ percent of it's original design specs every time you need to drive it. Even the Soviets had enough sense to give the concept up. Kudos to Mike G. for really getting this started and truly starting the rebirth of NASA as an exploratory agency and not a trucking company.

Seems foolish (4, Interesting)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116063)

There has been a lot of talk that all is not well in the development of Ares I. It isn't just that they are developing a new launcher (always tricky) but that they are developing a type of launcher never attempted before; a manned launcher that is aerodynamically unstable and has the biggest SRB ever flow as its first stage.

It is quite easy to imagine a scenario that could cause serious delays to the project. It is also quite easy (and unpleasant) to imagine a scenario where the new booster causes fatalities. There are real concerns about it flipping over during flight or the booster exploding. A fatal accident at that stage could finish off NASA and thus serious manned space exploration in the US. Given the pathetic amount of backing given to efforts in Europe, Russia and China that would be a bad thing for all of humanity.

Being British, my nations contribution to space is through the BNSC ('who the fuck are they?' I hear you utter, to which I respond 'exactly') and the ESA. It pains me to see that neither are likely to do much in the way of manned flight, despite being full of smart, motivated people with good ideas for it, because the grey bean counters who run our country see nothing but the immediate bottom line.

Re:Seems foolish (1)

maxume (22995) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116457)

Continuing to futz around with orbiting humans using chemical rockets isn't going to do much to benefit of all of humanity either.

Re:Seems foolish (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117031)

Where do you plan on building interplanetary ships, if not in orbit?

Re:Seems foolish (2, Informative)

sm62704 (957197) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116497)

I had to look up SRB in wikipedia to figure out what you were referring to. The I said "duh, I'm stupid". Solid Rocket Booster (smacks self on head)

Re:Seems foolish (1)

aerospaced (1322603) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116699)

The next time the polatitions sit down to watch cable or satellite tv, they can thank NASA's budget. There are several new power houses up there, but there are several getting very old and it will take the shuttle to remove the old one and place a new one in its place. I cannot help but feel that the CIA does not have one or two birds sitting off to the side, "in case...."

mike

Re:Seems foolish (2, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116845)

Here is the paradox though. They just don't see the connection. There are people who lap up the advances of science and technology then piss on scientists and engineers. It always bugs me when creationists spew their garbage using TV and the Internet. If it were up to those sort of people, there would be no TV or Internet.

Is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer going up? (4, Interesting)

maynard (3337) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116101)

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

The project has $ billions sunk into it already and international partners who will be most unhappy if the US can't allocate a shuttle mission to launch this baby to the ISS. Unfortunately, the article didn't list which missions had been selected. In fact, it didn't say much at all.

Re:Is the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer going up? (2, Interesting)

nacnud75 (963443) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117281)

No the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer is not going to fly, even though congress has offered the money for another flight in 2010. Nasa management doesn't seem interested. I think the only hope for the AMS is in a change of NASA management in 2009, that is if the ability to fly another STS mission hasn't already been lost by then, though I expect it would have.

leave them in orbit (1, Insightful)

stinkfish (675397) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116129)

and take on of those Russian thingies back down. What a great way to immortalize them and add huge capacity to the space station.

War (2, Insightful)

Rinisari (521266) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116131)

And we spend > $100 billion on fighting an undeclared war in a country which has little capability or war to defend itself.

Re:War (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24116855)

But the war is paying for itself!

The king is dead! Long live the king! (2, Interesting)

InvisblePinkUnicorn (1126837) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116187)

Is the country finally realizing that the private space industry, as with any private industry, will lead to more innovation, greater efficiency, and lower prices?

Re:The king is dead! Long live the king! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24116305)

Like Microsoft?

Re:The king is dead! Long live the king! (1)

thatskinnyguy (1129515) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116623)

I'm glad that we have people like Richard Branson willing to invest in a worthy cause (even though he is a goofball). I mean, he is the future Levi (As in Levi Strauss). Invest in something big now and reap the rewards of immortality later.

As for efficiency, anything that isn't run by the government is inherently more efficient because of it. It's not like companies have the financial resources of a government. Even Virgin Galactic has a finite pool of resources. They have to make-do with less to achieve the same goals as NASA.

GO PRIVATE SECTOR!!

Re:The king is dead! Long live the king! (1)

mweather (1089505) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117097)

As for efficiency, anything that isn't run by the government is inherently more efficient because of it.

Other than health care.

Re:The king is dead! Long live the king! (2, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116717)

The private space industry has so far managed to make explosions and sub orbital hops. Those dastardly socialists at NASA managed to launch a rocket with a capacity of 130 tonnes and put men on the moon 40 years ago. It is a bit premature to start mouthing laissez-faire rhetoric about space.

Markets are generally bad at space flight, because a market (and those people in it who succeed through accepting the tenets of the market) perceives redundancy as waste and precise standards as bureaucracy. In space flight, extensive redundancy and anal retentive detail are survival techniques. There are some things the market just can't get to grips with.

They say that but... (1)

Mechanik (104328) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116209)

... I am pretty sure that if a spy satellite needs to go up, or an old one needs to be fixed, the shuttles will be pressed into service. I doubt the US government wants even its allies handling that.

Re:They say that but... (2, Insightful)

neokushan (932374) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116425)

You know, there's more than one way to launch a satellite into Orbit. There's literally hundreds of different Rockets out there capable of such a thing.
Look at the thousands of satellites currently up there doing everything from broadcasting your TV and Radio to telling your GPS device where you are - you think they were all put up there by NASA?
Chances are, a lot of those commercial satellites got put into orbit with a small discount for allowing the Military to put a small, undisclosed payload into some spare space in the cargo area.

Re:They say that but... (4, Informative)

jonwil (467024) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116477)

If a spy sattelite (or any other sattelite) needs to go up, heavy boosters such as the Delta or Atlas will be used. If its an old one that needs to be dealt with, they would probably just shoot it out of the sky like they did last time.

Tirst Fest! (3, Interesting)

e03179 (578506) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116249)

First test is scheduled for April '09. Less than a year, we're supposed to see Ares I-X go up from Kennedy. We may not be sending Homo Sapiens up on Areas for a while, but at least we'll have a candle to burn.

crying shame (4, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116429)

Man, the Apollo guys saw themselves as the vanguard of moon settlement, they thought they were the scouts. What comes after Apollo? Thirty years of dicking around in LEO. Isn't this exciting, boys and girls? What a sad, sad joke. What's our next goal? "Why, if we wish hard enough, we might finally be able to replicate the Apollo mission, successfully flown decades ago!" Whoopitie fuck. We're just going to go back to the moon and plant a flag? Oh, and still-President Bush says he wants us to plant a flag on Mars, too. Fucking wanker. Where are our LaGrange colonies, where are the orbital power sats, asteroid mining, space manufacturing? Where is the vision? The only vision at NASA right now is making retirement without fucking up too badly.

Re:crying shame (1)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116751)

NASA was created to get America to the Moon first, but once it had achieved that it was perceived as a bloated, inefficient government program, and promptly gutted and intentionally mismanaged by those with an interest in proving that 'government doesnt work'

A flight remembered (5, Interesting)

eekygeeky (777557) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116523)

I'm glad of this: It means that a few years down the road, I can visit the Space Museum and my sturdy young son will see with his new eyes, under the fierce and optimistic Florida sun, another step in the hopes of man to go further than their birth.

He'll be just as mad as I was, all those years ago, smelling the hot dusty grass and the tarmac and sea, looking at those mighty silver birds, purpose built by the best we hade within us, that he can't climb in the real one, and has to go inside to the mockup.

I hope what he sees was what I saw, so far away and yet so close to hand, all those years ago. I hope the shuttle means to him what the moon lander meant to me- untrammelled hope and faith in human endeavour.

Rest in peace, big old bird; even parked on the forever runway, we'll always look at you with untarnished eyes and souls full of wonder.

Best laid plans of mice and men (1)

lexx21 (1274802) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116559)

The Russians have already threatened military action if we deploy our proposed missile defense shield in their former states. I wonder just how willing they will be to give us a ride if their military is marching toward one of our sites to wipe it out.

Re:Best laid plans of mice and men (1, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116803)

They are quite willing to cooperate with us Euros (although the countries allowing US interceptor bases and radar aren't on their Christmas card list at the moment). Most of the acrimony in our relationship with Russia is frankly America's fault. Or more precisely - its our fault for aligning ourselves so doggedly with America when it isn't America we have to live next door to and buy lots of gas off.

I would like to see congenial relations and cooperation on manned space flight with Russia (both of which they have made more positive moves towards than we have) - but my government seems intent on using this isle as a bloody aircraft carrier for a neocon American administration openly and aggressively trying to encircle Russia.

creators detail demise of unprecedented evile (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 6 years ago | (#24116561)

it's all in the manual. the lights are coming up all over now. conspiracy theorists are being vindicated. some might choose a tin umbrella to go with their hats. the fairytail is winding down now. let your conscience be yOUR guide. you can be more helpful than you might have imagined. there are still some choices. if they do not suit you, consider the likely results of continuing to follow the corepirate nazi hypenosys story LIEn, whereas anything of relevance is replaced almost instantly with pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking propaganda or 'celebrity' trivia 'foam'. meanwhile; don't forget to get a little more oxygen on yOUR brain, & look up in the sky from time to time, starting early in the day. there's lots going on up there.

http://news.google.com/?ncl=1216734813&hl=en&topic=n
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/31/opinion/31mon1.html?em&ex=1199336400&en=c4b5414371631707&ei=5087%0A
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/29/world/29amnesty.html?hp
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/06/02/nasa.global.warming.ap/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/weather/06/05/severe.weather.ap/index.html
http://www.cnn.com/2008/US/weather/06/02/honore.preparedness/index.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/01/opinion/01dowd.html?em&ex=1212638400&en=744b7cebc86723e5&ei=5087%0A
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/06/05/senate.iraq/index.html
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/17/washington/17contractor.html?hp
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/world/middleeast/03kurdistan.html?_r=1&hp&oref=slogin
http://biz.yahoo.com/ap/080708/cheney_climate.html

is it time to get real yet? A LOT of energy is being squandered in attempts to keep US in the dark. in the end (give or take a few 1000 years), the creators will prevail (world without end, etc...), as it has always been. the process of gaining yOUR release from the current hostage situation may not be what you might think it is. butt of course, most of US don't know, or care what a precarious/fatal situation we're in. for example; the insidious attempts by the felonious corepirate nazi execrable to block the suns' light, interfering with a requirement (sunlight) for us to stay healthy/alive. it's likely not good for yOUR health/memories 'else they'd be bragging about it? we're intending for the whoreabully deceptive (they'll do ANYTHING for a bit more monIE/power) felons to give up/fail even further, in attempting to control the 'weather', as well as a # of other things/events.

http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=weather+manipulation&btnG=Search
http://video.google.com/videosearch?hl=en&q=video+cloud+spraying

dictator style micro management has never worked (for very long). it's an illness. tie that with life0cidal aggression & softwar gangster style bullying, & what do we have? a greed/fear/ego based recipe for disaster. meanwhile, you can help to stop the bleeding (loss of life & limb);

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/28/vermont.banning.bush.ap/index.html

the bleeding must be stopped before any healing can begin. jailing a couple of corepirate nazi hired goons would send a clear message to the rest of the world from US. any truthful look at the 'scorecard' would reveal that we are a society in decline/deep doo-doo, despite all of the scriptdead pr ?firm? generated drum beating & flag waving propaganda that we are constantly bombarded with. is it time to get real yet? please consider carefully ALL of yOUR other 'options'. the creators will prevail. as it has always been.

corepirate nazi execrable costs outweigh benefits
(Score:-)mynuts won, the king is a fink)
by ourselves on everyday 24/7

as there are no benefits, just more&more death/debt & disruption. fortunately there's an 'army' of light bringers, coming yOUR way. the little ones/innocents must/will be protected. after the big flash, ALL of yOUR imaginary 'borders' may blur a bit? for each of the creators' innocents harmed in any way, there is a debt that must/will be repaid by you/us, as the perpetrators/minions of unprecedented evile, will not be available. 'vote' with (what's left in) yOUR wallet, & by your behaviors. help bring an end to unprecedented evile's manifestation through yOUR owned felonious corepirate nazi glowbull warmongering execrable. some of US should consider ourselves somewhat fortunate to be among those scheduled to survive after the big flash/implementation of the creators' wwwildly popular planet/population rescue initiative/mandate. it's right in the manual, 'world without end', etc.... as we all ?know?, change is inevitable, & denying/ignoring gravity, logic, morality, etc..., is only possible, on a temporary basis. concern about the course of events that will occur should the life0cidal execrable fail to be intervened upon is in order. 'do not be dismayed' (also from the manual). however, it's ok/recommended, to not attempt to live under/accept, fauxking nazi felon greed/fear/ego based pr ?firm? scriptdead mindphuking hypenosys.

consult with/trust in yOUR creators. providing more than enough of everything for everyone (without any distracting/spiritdead personal gain motives), whilst badtolling unprecedented evile, using an unlimited supply of newclear power, since/until forever. see you there?

"If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

meanwhile, the life0cidal philistines continue on their path of death, debt, & disruption for most of US. gov. bush denies health care for the little ones;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/10/03/bush.veto/index.html

whilst demanding/extorting billions to paint more targets on the bigger kids;

http://www.cnn.com/2007/POLITICS/12/12/bush.war.funding/index.html

& pretending that it isn't happening here;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/world/us_and_americas/article3086937.ece
all is not lost/forgotten/forgiven

(yOUR elected) president al gore (deciding not to wait for the much anticipated 'lonesome al answers yOUR questions' interview here on /.) continues to attempt to shed some light on yOUR foibles. talk about reverse polarity;

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/environment/article3046116.ece

Re:creators detail demise of unprecedented evile (0, Offtopic)

Jonasx (851520) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116669)

Where's the link to the offshore pharmacy?

Outsourcing Space Transport (0, Troll)

EmagGeek (574360) | more than 6 years ago | (#24116837)

I am sure we'll end up outsourcing this, too.. so... someone will develop a satellite by outsourcing the work to India, the manufacturing to China, and launch it into space on a Russian space vehicle.

My question is, what the hell does anyone need the US for anymore? The US doesn't actually DO anything except act as a giant bureaucracy.

Recapturing past glory? (3, Insightful)

ZonkerWilliam (953437) | more than 6 years ago | (#24117169)

Visiting NASA at Cape Canaveral a couple of years ago with my wife, I can't help feel like the whole place was a shrine to Apollo age. I would talk to people at NASA and they would just talk about the "Good old days", not once did they talk about the Shuttle or ISS. Honestly, I think we need a new Space Agency, one who can look to the future instead of being stuck in the past.
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