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NASA Shuttle Replacement's Problems Are Worsening

CmdrTaco posted about 6 years ago | from the parts-is-parts dept.

NASA 344

ausoleil noted that NASA's replacement for the shuttle, the Orion, is slipping behind schedule "'We're probably going to have to move our target date,' NASA exploration chief Doug Cooke told The Associated Press on Wednesday after Nasawatch.com posted the 117-page internal status report (PDF) on the moon program. The cost problems include an $80 million overrun on a motor system. The Orion spacecraft's design remains too heavy for the proposed Ares 1 rocket. Software development, heat shield testing and other complex work remain behind schedule or over budget. There are dozens of such serious challenges, many of which are 'worsening.'"

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344 comments

yeah, that's right. i'm not a rocket scientist (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24228837)

but i'll play one on slashdot and come up with all kinds of rubber band and duct tape solutions and act like my 11th grade physics class bests nasa engineers.

wait, my friends, you'll see tons of posts just like this except for that the posters take themselves seriously.

Re:yeah, that's right. i'm not a rocket scientist (5, Informative)

sm62704 (957197) | about 6 years ago | (#24229031)

but i'll play one on slashdot and come up with all kinds of rubber band and duct tape solutions

You mean like the ones that saved Apollo 13 [wikipedia.org] ? IIRC the solution to the problem of running out of breathable air involved rubber bands and duct tape.

Re:yeah, that's right. i'm not a rocket scientist (4, Informative)

aeskdar (1136689) | about 6 years ago | (#24229089)

Sarcasm has no effect on you!

Re:yeah, that's right. i'm not a rocket scientist (5, Funny)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 6 years ago | (#24229115)

IIRC the solution to the problem of running out of breathable air involved rubber bands and duct tape.

Because duct tape can be bought on any budget. Hell, it better be the first thing on the budget. Hell, it's probably holding the budget together.

Re:yeah, that's right. i'm not a rocket scientist (2, Funny)

peragrin (659227) | about 6 years ago | (#24229997)

have you seen NASA's budget's? they not only need duct tape, and rubber bands to hold it together, but only macguyver is smart enough to understand it and he is a rocket scientist.

Re:yeah, that's right. i'm not a rocket scientist (4, Insightful)

gunnk (463227) | about 6 years ago | (#24229171)

I'm not sure the problem is so much technical as process: the Orion is a "Cost Plus" contract.

Cost plus is always likely to see cost overruns and major delays. The more expensive and the longer it takes, the more the contractors make. There's no motivation to be on time and under budget.

Re:yeah, that's right. i'm not a rocket scientist (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24229903)

The more expensive and the longer it takes, the more the contractors make. There's no motivation to be on time and under budget.

Not true... cost plus is good if you don't want the "lowest bidder" mentality. Although underhanded tactics will inevitably exist, NASA only pays contractors cost plus a FIXED profit for the contractor.

They have no incentive to run over on the time

Re:yeah, that's right. i'm not a rocket scientist (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24229999)

If only it were that easy. Adding to the Cost usually means you're going to take a beating when it comes to determining the Plus. It's also not a great idea to willfully and purposely dick over a major customer like NASA; both because it's illegal and because you'll have no chance to win future contracts.

Just wait (1, Funny)

nizo (81281) | about 6 years ago | (#24228859)

I keep half expecting them to finally get one built, and then they realize they don't have a launch pad capable of handling something that big.

Re:Just wait (5, Interesting)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 6 years ago | (#24228993)

Just set up a national tip jar on something akin to PayPal.
Citizens actually want to fund space activities, not the stuff that's killing us: http://perotcharts.com/ [perotcharts.com]
Dis-intermediating DC is step #1 in carrying out the will of the people.

Re:Just wait (0, Offtopic)

DreamerFi (78710) | about 6 years ago | (#24229739)

Excellent. Let's do the same with the Iraq war.

Re:Just wait (5, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 6 years ago | (#24229261)

I think you're confusing Ares I [wikipedia.org] and Ares V [wikipedia.org] . Ares I isn't all that big. It's a single stack of capsule -> fuel tank -> stage 2 engine -> stage 1 solid rocket booster. If anything, it's quite a bit thinner than most rockets. However, it does make up for this by towering a massive 94m high. Which does mean a few upgrades to the scaffolding.

The Ares V, however, she's gonna be a beasty. With six (!) main engines, two outboard Solid Rocket Boosters, a plump width of 10m on the central stack, and a towering 116m tall, she's going to put every other rocket to shame. Personally, I can't wait. ;-)

Re:Just wait (1)

UU7 (103653) | about 6 years ago | (#24229671)

Well, except for the Saturn V, or even the Ariane 5 :)

Re:Just wait (1)

UU7 (103653) | about 6 years ago | (#24229713)

nm on the Ariane, I think my brain was abducted for a bit.
Saturn still stands though.

Re:Just wait (4, Informative)

AKAImBatman (238306) | about 6 years ago | (#24229907)

The Ares V will even put the Sat V to shame.

Ares V Stats
============
Height: 116 m
Diameter: 10 m + 3.7 m(2x)
Payload to LEO: 130,000 kg (does not appear to be corrected after addition of sixth engine)
Payload to GEO: 71,100 kg
 
Saturn V Stats
==============
Height: 110.6 m
Diameter: 10.1 m
Payload to LEO: 118,000 kg
Payload to GEO: 47,000 kg

The Ares V is going to be the large booster we SHOULD have built after the Saturn V. It's late, but it's finally coming. :-)

Fortunately for NASA (4, Insightful)

Hawthorne01 (575586) | about 6 years ago | (#24228865)

There are alternatives [spacex.com] .

Look, does this news really come as a surprise? NASA's been over-budget and behind schedule since the last Apollo flight. Without the unlimited checkbook that Mercury/Gemini/Apollo had, this should be expected.

Unlimited budgets have a way of clearing all obstacles in their path.

Re:Fortunately for NASA (1, Insightful)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 6 years ago | (#24229133)

NASA's been over-budget and behind schedule since the last Apollo flight.

Please remind me which USG agency has not been? (Other than the post office)

Re:Fortunately for NASA (2, Informative)

Rub1cnt (1159069) | about 6 years ago | (#24229333)

Hey, the post office is only over budget because of the grevious overspending in the management section. I've seen the Reqs...new desks every 6 months in hardwoods, hardwood paneling for offices..Granted, they're complaining that email is killing thier business..but the Post Office is far from "run by penny pinching PHBs." Their POS system is still run on a celeron 300!

Re:Fortunately for NASA (5, Informative)

maxume (22995) | about 6 years ago | (#24229487)

The post office is, roughly, a crown corporation. It operates under a government mandate and follows some special rules regarding taxes, but it has been self funded for quite a long time now.

Re:Fortunately for NASA (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#24229995)

Look, does this news really come as a surprise? NASA's been over-budget and behind schedule since the last Apollo flight. Without the unlimited checkbook that Mercury/Gemini/Apollo had, this should be expected.

Except that Mercury/Gemini/Apollo *didn't* have a blank checkbook. Mercury in particular, while not done exactly on the cheap, wasn't even remotely the same priority as Apollo. Gemini was a perennial 'also ran', routinely coming in second in the competition for resources with Apollo.
 
Yet, all three vehicle came in over budget, over weight, and behind schedule.

Re:Fortunately for NASA (4, Insightful)

Vornzog (409419) | about 6 years ago | (#24230045)

There are alternatives [spacex.com].

Yeah, including some real alternatives, that can actually get into the orbits NASA needs to get to, rather then just barely out of the atmosphere (where you can tell a tourist that they are 'in space'. Like this [ulalaunch.com] or this [ulalaunch.com] .

The US Government has already funded the development of not one, but two rockets with the kinds of capabilities they need. They are flight proven, expandable to handle all sorts of loads, and available right now, not whenever Ares will slip out to. Add a little redundancy in a couple of systems, and have them ready to launch American astronauts into space in two years.

SpaceX is cool, and is probably the direction that the future of American space exploration needs to go. But it is not ready, it is not proven and it doesn't come close to the kinds of payload capacity or reliability that we need now. Check back around the time when Ares is supposed to be done to see what SpaceX is up to. In the mean time, quit screwing around developing a rocket similar, but slightly different from, the two perfectly good commercially available ones that are already up and running.

Gap? (4, Insightful)

justinmc (710870) | about 6 years ago | (#24228891)

How long will there be no active US manned spacecraft - and will this get longer?
I am reminded of the gap between Apollo and the Shuttle - and look at what happened to Skylab...

Re:Gap? (2, Insightful)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 6 years ago | (#24229143)

How long will there be no active US manned spacecraft - and will this get longer?
I am reminded of the gap between Apollo and the Shuttle - and look at what happened to Skylab...

This is expected, though. Since when do projects half this scale go as planned? I just hope the Americans get their shit together and give Orion the funding it needs.

Re:Gap? (5, Insightful)

inviolet (797804) | about 6 years ago | (#24229287)

This is expected, though. Since when do projects half this scale go as planned? I just hope the Americans get their shit together and give Orion the funding it needs.

Actually this kind of cost overrun is absolutely planned.

You'd do it too, if faced with this alternative:

  • Propose to congress a project which will cost $40B, be truthful about the cost, and be rejected; or
  • Propose to congress a project which will cost $40B, lie and say it will cost $15B, and be approved. Later the cost will rise but Congress will not care, or will commit the "sunk cost fallacy".

If you cared *nothing* for your country but just wanted to run a big project, then you would lie, get the money, and do the project. On the other hand, if you cared *dearly* for your country, and knew it needed a space program, then you would lie, get the money, and do the project.

Ah well.

I am finally at peace with this. What I will never be at peace with, however, is the fact that the space program is a mere drop in the bucket of market-distorting federal transfer payments.

Re:Gap? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24229967)

This is the same Congressional budget tapping that has American taxpayers footing bills for close to $1 trillion dollars in war funding, among other awesome policy debacles. But hey, $1 trillion carries the sunk cost fallacy to a new level.

Sorry, now .

Re:Gap? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24230051)

But the people of the US were crying out for us to invade Iraq! Remember all those protests demanding it?

Re:Gap? (4, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | about 6 years ago | (#24229313)

This is expected, though. Since when do projects half this scale go as planned? I just hope the Americans get their shit together and give Orion the funding it needs.

Somebody-or-others-law:

A poorly planned project takes three times as long to complete as scheduled.

A well planned project only takes twice as long.

Re:Gap? (2, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#24230021)

I am reminded of the gap between Apollo and the Shuttle - and look at what happened to Skylab...

Had Shuttle flown as scheduled Skylab would still have eventually re-entered - the purpose of the reboost flight(s) was to control, not prevent, reentry.

What has happened to us? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24228923)

We seemed more adventurous and capable in the 1960s than we are in 2008. Is this what has become of the great spacefaring nation that so many before us had envisioned? Despite serious technological advancements, have we lost our momentum? Maybe it was a passion for the unknown that enabled us before. I fear it has been replaced by disinterested private contractors, underfunding, and ambivalence. More so if this shuttle replacement isn't successful.

Re:What has happened to us? (5, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | about 6 years ago | (#24229079)

There's two major problems:

1. Less funding. For as much as we use it as a dick wagging competition neither party has a real interest in seeing a very robust space program when those dollars could go to buying off voters with more useless ventures that put cash in the right pockets.

2. Speaking of dick wagging competitions, we've lost our main rival. While the argument could be made that the Chinese are going to beat us up in the space race in another couple of decades, most people just aren't that interested. The space race is no longer a spectator sport since Crazy Ivan is now regarded as either friendly or impotent. The same Joe Sixpacks who shell out hundreds to thousands of dollars each year on their favorite football team were keeping interest in the space program alive when it was competitive. They love The Right Stuff, they yawn at 2001.

Re:What has happened to us? (4, Insightful)

ShibaInu (694434) | about 6 years ago | (#24229323)

Let's also be clear that the need to put humans in space seems not so obvious any more. We have fleets of robots exploring other planets with less cost and less risk. To me, human exploration of space at this time seems like a waste. Right now the human space program seems more like a corporate boondoggle than anything else. Of course it is over budget, that is the whole point - to spend a lot of taxpayer money!

With robots you can take more risk and spend more money. And, I'm not saying that humans shouldn't go into space, it just seems like right now we should be focused on exploration, which is better served with robots.

Re:What has happened to us? (2, Interesting)

east coast (590680) | about 6 years ago | (#24229663)

Disclaimer: I'm not a scientist nor an engineer

See, I don't know about this. I keep hearing around minable resources on the moon that might make good sense if we ever get the whole cold fusion thing working. If this is true (and excuse me if I'm not, see disclaimer for more info) it makes sense to me to get the technology off the ground today that could put those resources within easy reach to us as soon as possible. I would really really hate to see us get fusion down to a workable and safe energy solution to only have to wait another 10-20 years after that while the technology was developed to mine the resources that make it truely worthwhile and cost effective.

Again, I'm not in the know on the subject like some other users seem to be so maybe I'm talking out of my ass. I just think that developing technologies on a parallel track makes more sense than doing step one and wait to be able to do step two if they're solutions that can be worked out simultaneously.

Did we really make it to the moon? (2, Interesting)

xpuppykickerx (1290760) | about 6 years ago | (#24228933)

40 years later we can barely make it out of Earth's atmosphere. Just use the equipment from the Apollo program...problem solved.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (4, Insightful)

torkus (1133985) | about 6 years ago | (#24229013)

Sure sure. Sounds great.

Now, just initial here that the 2008 mandatory stress testing has been done on each component, OSHA has approved the ergonomics of the seats, all modern safety systems are in place...and...hello? Where are you going?

No one (with power in NASA or gov't) is interested in getting back to the moon without a billion rules, regulations, and safety measures.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (1, Insightful)

xpuppykickerx (1290760) | about 6 years ago | (#24229045)

say fuck no to rules man!

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (4, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | about 6 years ago | (#24229189)

No one (with power in NASA or gov't) is interested in getting back to the moon without a billion rules, regulations, and safety measures.

Also consider that astronauts were looked on as rough and tough guys doing their national duty in the days of Apollo. Today they're seen as geeks wasting cash on expensive toys.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (1)

xpuppykickerx (1290760) | about 6 years ago | (#24229253)

Also, this was during the Cold War when we were having the space race with the Russian. One of the reasons the Apollo 1 fire happened is because how hard everyone was pushing for a launch and how no one knew limits or wanted to stop.

Now we have no one to race, going back to the moon is old news...nothing new, no one cares.

It's sad to think Apollo 13 was the height of NASA's success and intelligence.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (2, Interesting)

geogob (569250) | about 6 years ago | (#24229407)

Now we have no one to race

And even if there was someone to race, their installations would probably get bombed down during a so-called preventive strike because of its potential military applications ;)

Nowadays, it's much easier to start a fire and put oil on it than dealing with a cold war it seems.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (2, Insightful)

Rub1cnt (1159069) | about 6 years ago | (#24229593)

Which is exactly why we need to resurrect interest in the Space program. No one cares? Has anyone ever thought about what life would be like if we DIDN'T have the space program?! Slashdot would be out of business...we'd still be in the dark ages of tech if we didnt have a space program. No high availiability servers, no hybrid cars, no amazingy resilient memory metals, no high heat plastics or ceramics... ALL these things have peices that came from the space program research or otherwise. Kids nowdays learn basic science in schools...taught to a test, taught to look into the box of ideas and take from it, imitate, never innovate. Rarely will you ever see a child look up and wonder about what makes the world tick, what makes the sun shine, why is the sky blue...etc. Nowadays, Brittany Spears getting in a car wreck is more in tune with their attention spans. I worked with these people, these people are dedicated to getting another man to the moon with as much safety as money can buy. We DO need a space program, it needs more money, and the Patriots in congress don't seem to understand that. We're in a recession, soon to head into a depression...why not divert some government bailout money to the space program and only bail out half of Fannie MAe or Freddie Mac? Its time we had an administration that hearkened back to the days of Reganomics, where failure was NOT an option. Nowdays, the american public is too engrossed in American Idol to realize that the same people that are running the country into the ground financially with pork barrel spending and side goals are also starving a potential venue of economic revitaliazation with thier short sighted, anti-innovative laws and associated security theatre. We've lost so much in the past 7 years, let's not add the space program and the gifts of knowledge and research benefits to the casualty list. We need the space program, Congress will probably understand that the day that they wake up and realize that China has already colonized Mars and Japan is on the way to Europa. Kubrick said it best, "All of these words are yours, except Europa. Attempt no landing there. Use them wisely, use them in peace." The universe is at our door step, let our shortsightedness not rob us of that. Save NASA.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (3, Insightful)

rbanffy (584143) | about 6 years ago | (#24229597)

The Apollo astronauts _were_ tough guys doing their national duty.

Besides that. JFK was buried the day Armstrong set foot on the Moon. The goal set by him was accomplished, the Russians defeated and, thus, Joe Sixpack lost interest. There seemed to be a can-do attitude, a willingness to blow stuff up and to take risks that is no more.

It's really tragic thing. Maybe we don't deserve to be a spacefaring race.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (2, Insightful)

torkus (1133985) | about 6 years ago | (#24229837)

It's really tragic thing. Maybe we don't deserve to be a spacefaring race.

Well unless you count LEO...we're not. The ISS is what, about 220 miles up? Shuttle makes it a whopping 500-ish at most? what a sad state.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (3, Insightful)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 6 years ago | (#24229209)

Now, just initial here that the 2008 mandatory stress testing has been done on each component, OSHA has approved the ergonomics of the seats, all modern safety systems are in place...and...hello? Where are you going?

Actually, the real problem is the toxic fuels that were used, and a few other toxic components. It's the _environmental_ issues that prevent Apollo-era technology from flying today, not the safety issues.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (1)

rhkaloge (208983) | about 6 years ago | (#24229533)

The safety issues are at least as important as the environmental ones, trust me. Every time our engineering firm deals with something that relates to "human", especially space flight, expect 10X the cost and complexity of the unmanned version.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (1)

rbanffy (584143) | about 6 years ago | (#24229655)

Well... I am not that much into the "fuck the environment" attitude as to endorse Orion, but I am willing to see a few zillion tons of fossil fuels being burned to build a decent space station, some decent moon colony etc.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (4, Informative)

poobie (69404) | about 6 years ago | (#24229839)

err, the S-1C was a Kerosene/LOX burner, and the upper stages were hydrogen/LOX. The Titan, which was obviously not part of Apollo, used some really toxic hypergolic fuels, but Apollo was relatively clean. I'm sure the spacecraft itself had plenty of toxic crap in it, but the booster was relatively safe.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | about 6 years ago | (#24229121)

We could do a lot better.
The Aluminum/Li alloys work well for the Shuttle ET. Electronics are better by far.
NASA developed and improved F1 called the F1A before the end of Apollo.
Build a Saturn Vi using Aluminum/Li, the F1A, J2s for the second and third stage, and modern electronics.
Build a Saturn 1bi with a Single F1A for the first stage.
I HATE going backwards and I would like to see an improved shuttle but NASA isn't going to get the funding to do that right.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? - Can't (1, Informative)

Markvs (17298) | about 6 years ago | (#24229135)

We *can't* go back to the Apollo gear. What little survives is in museums and the tools that made it are long gone. So are the tools that made the tools, and the knowhow that went with it. You might as well ask for a brand new L-1011 jetliner.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? - Can't (3, Funny)

Rub1cnt (1159069) | about 6 years ago | (#24229649)

Copies of the manuals and the designs for the Saturn V still exist. And we've got one of the best examples out there. We still have original Saturn V rockets out at the space centers. Dust that damn thing off, REVERSE ENGINEER it. If NASA can't do it, HIRE MICROSOFT ENGINEERS! They've been doing it for YEARS.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (1, Informative)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 6 years ago | (#24229169)

40 years later we can barely make it out of Earth's atmosphere. Just use the equipment from the Apollo program...problem solved.

Not only does NASA not have the Apollo equipment, they don't even have the plans anymore! It was all stored in some humid Florida closet, and is unreadable today. All the design, right down to the wind tunnel testing, would have to be redone.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (1, Insightful)

tuffy (10202) | about 6 years ago | (#24229459)

Not only does NASA not have the Apollo equipment, they don't even have the plans anymore!

That's an urban myth. NASA has a complete Apollo rocket suspended in pieces from the ceiling in its tourist center. I have pictures.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (1)

CraftyJack (1031736) | about 6 years ago | (#24229239)

The Apollo guys are either very old or long gone, and that program didn't leave us much in the way of useful records. Much of that knowledge has been lost.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24229245)

As somebody pointed out in a similar discussion months ago, the whole industry that built the components for the Apollo program doesn't exist anymore. It will be just impossible to build those old components today. US have to find a way to go back to space with what we have today or give up and wait a little more and outsource manned spaceflight to India or China.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (1)

Bender0x7D1 (536254) | about 6 years ago | (#24229461)

It will be just impossible to build those old components today. [Emphasis mine]

It isn't impossible. More expensive - probably. But I challenge anyone to point to a single part and say it is no longer possible to build it.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24229311)

> Just use the equipment from the Apollo
> program...problem solved.

This would be going back to vacuum tube technology.

It would also be quite expensive to do. Not only are the required vacuum tubes not in stock anywhere, the factories and machines that made the vacuum tubes no longer exist. And the tools to make the machines to make vacuum tubes no longer exist, and nobody makes the tools any more.

Now multiply this problem with every part -- from electronics to literally nuts and bolts -- of the rockets, engines, ground segment, etc. The industrial infrastructure that created Apollo parts went the way your neighborhood horse whip factory did.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24229567)

Unfortunately, NASA ran out of room a few years ago, did some house cleaning and freed up room by throwing out all the Apollo technical specs. They couldn't build another one if they wanted too. It's called 'burning your bridges behind you'.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (1)

Jedi Holocron (225191) | about 6 years ago | (#24229915)

Problem with that is the data to construct an Apollo program has been lost. You'd have to start from scratch again.

Re:Did we really make it to the moon? (1)

khallow (566160) | about 6 years ago | (#24230019)

Apollo used old technology, had near unlimited budget, and accepted some pretty high risk (I gather the chances of loss of crew might have been worse than 1 in 10 for the first couple of Apollo missions). I also think the economics of the Saturn V launch vehicle are really poor, especially the large amount of support it needed and the low launch frequency.

A Government Contract .... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24228935)

slipping behind schedule?!? Say it ain't so!

Cue contractor "cost" increases and subsequent price and budget increases in 5....4....3....2....

The Intermediate Solution (5, Funny)

WwWonka (545303) | about 6 years ago | (#24228955)

NASA has reported that the delay and the budget crunch has forced it to reconsider a prior option that will now be built on the shores of Cocoa Beach, FL. It will include two one hundred foot towers with a very elastic synthetic band extending between them. A state of the art human reclining space momentum chair will be attached in the middle to propel future explorers into space...or some where father out into the Atlantic Ocean.

Re:The Intermediate Solution (5, Funny)

RabidMoose (746680) | about 6 years ago | (#24229161)

This solution contains rubber bands, but is detrimentally lacking in duct tape.

Re:The Intermediate Solution (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 6 years ago | (#24229611)

A state of the art human reclining space momentum chair will be attached in the middle to propel future explorers into space...or some where father out into the Atlantic Ocean.

I heard Scaled Composites is going to be doing this one for a tenth of the cost, and hopes to get it down to the point where many middle-class people could afford it. The downside is you won't quite reach the ocean.

Shocker!!!!!! (4, Informative)

Chineseyes (691744) | about 6 years ago | (#24228989)

Engineering of a very complex systems overrunning budget and schedule limits and this is news?

News would be if they were under budget and finished a year early.

Re:Shocker!!!!!! (2, Interesting)

GrayNimic (1051532) | about 6 years ago | (#24229847)

Plus, it was the internal target date that slipped, from Summer 2013 to NET August 2014 ... which is still about a year before the official, public target in 2015.

That's *why* the public date is further out than the internal date in the first place ... to give the schedule some slack because, inevitably, there will be delays and overruns of one kind or another.

That makes... (1)

Thelasko (1196535) | about 6 years ago | (#24229009)

Jupiter [slashdot.org] look better every minute.

Just about what I expected (2, Insightful)

jollyreaper (513215) | about 6 years ago | (#24229025)

I've given up on any hope for a manned successor to the shuttle, at least as far as NASA is concerned. I've gotten my geek hope burned too many times on the hype.

If this thing ever gets off the ground, I will be surprised. But even if it does at that, I imagine the design will be as flawed and compromised as the shuttle's.

you get what you pay for (4, Insightful)

thrillseeker (518224) | about 6 years ago | (#24229051)

and we haven't paid for much of a space program for several decades now. All that engineering knowledge has slowly, and literally, died as engineers have retired. Sending a handful of people to earth orbit every year is not exploration - any focus on anything other than how to advance human beings as rapidly as possible to every body in the solar system is simply spending money without garnering public desire to pay for more of it. We need people going places, and waiting five decades to get around to making it happen has wasted away all the good will those who write the checks had for doing this business.

Re:you get what you pay for (4, Insightful)

sm62704 (957197) | about 6 years ago | (#24229681)

I'm astounded at the number of people on a nerd site (of all places) who take "old sayings" unquestionably.

Whoever believes that "you get what you pay for" has never prepaid for sex, or used an unlicensed contractor for home repairs. You usually pay for what you get, but you don't always get what you pay for. Often a higher priced item will be inferior to a lower priced item. Only a fool buys item A because it costs more than item B. Seller B may be trying to get market share.

Money doesn't grow on trees, you know. Oh wait - yes, it does. It not only grows on trees, it grows on cornstalks and soybean bushes and all sorts of other plants.

There's no such thing as a free lunch... excuse me, grandma's calling. What, grandma? Sure, I'll come over for lunch.

Nothing free is worthwhile. Except maybe air. And rain. And those dandelion leaves in that expensive salad you just bought. Someone gave me some tomato plants, and guess what? Home grown tomatos are vastly superior to the ones I bought. Yes, It took fifteen minutes physical labor to plant them and I'll have to pick the tomatos, but that's not a cost, it's a benefit. I work at a desk job and don't get much exersize. Meanwhile I pay a fee for the gym.

My dad always said "don't believe anything you hear, and only half of what you see". I think he's right, and I think it goes double for those incredibly stupid old sayings. Don't take anything on face value; at least give it half a thought.

Re:you get what you pay for (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24230065)

Whoever believes that "you get what you pay for" has never prepaid for sex

It's nobody's fault but your own that you chose to get married.

I'm outraged? (2, Interesting)

Itninja (937614) | about 6 years ago | (#24229059)

The cost problems include an $80 million overrun on a motor system

Well, that's sucks I guess. But since NASA has something like a $17 billion budget, isn't that a colossal non-issue? I realize this was just the motor system, but if I had a $40,000 budget to furnish a new home, I don't think I would be concerned if the coffee table was $20 more than I was expecting.

Re:I'm outraged? (5, Informative)

dotancohen (1015143) | about 6 years ago | (#24229255)

The cost problems include an $80 million overrun on a motor system

Well, that's sucks I guess. But since NASA has something like a $17 billion budget, isn't that a colossal non-issue? I realize this was just the motor system, but if I had a $40,000 budget to furnish a new home, I don't think I would be concerned if the coffee table was $20 more than I was expecting.

From Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] :
"NASA's current FY 2008 budget of $17.318 billion represents about 0.6% of the $2.9 trillion United States federal budget."

I'll let the reader come to his own conclusions about US priorities. Without linking to the DoD budget.

Re:I'm outraged? (4, Informative)

tbfee (1115043) | about 6 years ago | (#24229875)

It's much more complicated than your home furnishing project. NASA can't simply apply funds from elsewhere it its budget; that money is already spoken for, and appropriated by Congress for other projects. In other words, there is no way, within the law, to take money from another project to fix this problem; additional funding or reprogramming actions are required, both of which take time. Even in Washington, $80M is a big issue. As it should be.

Cheops' Law (1, Redundant)

4D6963 (933028) | about 6 years ago | (#24229067)

"Software development, heat shield testing and other complex work remain behind schedule or over budget."

"Nothing ever gets built on schedule or within budget."

"worsening"? (1)

Fizzl (209397) | about 6 years ago | (#24229071)

Are you implying that the word is not perfectly cromulent?

Meh. (5, Insightful)

susano_otter (123650) | about 6 years ago | (#24229103)

You should see the contortions Grumman had to go through, to get the Lunar Module under the mission weight budget, well into the Apollo Program.

I figure the only thing that's changed between now and then is the Internet makes it much easier for the lay public to form entirely the wrong impression about highly complex and technical works-in-progress.

Re:Meh. (1)

THotze (5028) | about 6 years ago | (#24229551)

That's all well and good, but we DID that already. 40 years ago. That was the first time that anyone'd ever tried a spacecraft designed solely for space; we're talking about a crew capsule here. The we've made them for nearly 50 years now, the Russians a bit longer, even China's Shenzhou is basically a decade old. the point is, most of the 'creative thinking' on making a spacecraft at the right weight (if not in-budget) has been done already, this should be easier.

I, for one, am hoping SpaceX's Dragon [wikipedia.org] and the related Falcon 9 it sits on will enter service successfully, as scheduled. In that case, we'll have a roughly as-capable manned craft developed in a fraction of the time at a fraction of the budget - and we won't be repeat our dubious distinction of being the first country in human history to lose spaceflight capability (as we did just before the Space Shuttle entered service).

Tim

project rule: double estimated time (3, Insightful)

peter303 (12292) | about 6 years ago | (#24229201)

In fairly new technology a fairly good rule I observe is to always doubel managements estimated time. Therefore the first manned Orion to ISS will be 2018 (assuming ISS is still functional then).

Why the Ares I? (5, Insightful)

mpthompson (457482) | about 6 years ago | (#24229263)

There are existing commercial launch vehicles such as the Delta IV or Atlas V rockets that can be man rated or the potential upcoming commercial launch vehicles such as the SpaceX Falcon 9 that could replace Ares I. Although man rating isn't trivial it's insane for NASA to create a new rocket to compete with existing commercial launch vehicles. NASA should encourage making manned access to low Earth orbit a low cost commercial commodity rather than using government resources to discourage such access.

In fact, NASA should contract with two independent suppliers capable of lifting the CEV to low Earth orbit and buy launch vehicles from each supplier in near equal quantities. This would add some expense, but it would make sure that should a launch accident occur our manned space program isn't grounded for years as complex accident investigations occur and fixes are implemented on the failed launch vehicle.

The Ares I is an albatross that only exists because of pride and politics. It is harmful to the exact type of space development that this nation needs. In the early 60's NASA didn't lose any face by choosing to re-purpose ICBMs for the Mercury and Gemini programs. Instead, out of necessity, NASA it's rocket building teams on the Saturn series of rockets. It was the practical decision then and it is the practical decision to re-purpose existing vehicles now for LEO access.

If NASA wants to build a launcher (and whether they should be building any is a very debatable) then they should be concentrating exclusively on the Ares V/VI which actually goes somewhere and does something that commercial space companies may not be able to do economically today.

Re:Why the Ares I? (2, Insightful)

mindbender.ca (875755) | about 6 years ago | (#24229513)

Because none of those launchers you mentioned could lift the Orion capsule, which is the whole idea for the project (even though the current Ares I design cant do that either). If we scrap Ares now and cancel Shuttle, the US wont be launching people until 2018 at the earliest.

Re:Why the Ares I? (3, Interesting)

Suzuran (163234) | about 6 years ago | (#24230067)

That's exactly what's supposed to happen.

We're canceling the Shuttle, and later when Ares/Orion turns into a huge disaster with budget overruns and shortfalls, Congress will be justified (in the public's eyes) when they cancel it as well and shut down the entire manned spaceflight program.

And if you think they're going to make private spaceflight easy to make up for this, you're deluded.

We're in the process of shutting down our airline industry with ridiculous security policies that do nothing for security and everything for driving people away from air travel. Private aviation is being similarly crippled with new taxes designed primarily to ensure that only the very wealthy can afford to fly. There is no reason to have NASA when we can outsource our space flight needs to overseas vendors and get paid kickbacks to our secret overseas bank accounts.

A population that stays in the same place all the time is much easier to control. Transportation is under attack.

Re:Why the Ares I? (1)

rbanffy (584143) | about 6 years ago | (#24229775)

NASA has actually two roles here.

One role is to develop technology for space access. The other is to use said space access to advance science. Those two goals are conflicting.

The second role could be satisfied with cheap and relatively simple technology, but that is not what the first role requires, as it does not push the envelope far enough.

Re:Why the Ares I? -- Uhh, payload? (5, Informative)

Phairdon (1158023) | about 6 years ago | (#24229777)

Did you look at how much payload each rocket can take to orbit before you made this post? Look at the payload capacity to GTO (not LEO)

Let me list the estimated maximum payloads since you did not:
Delta IV: 20,000 pounds or so
Atlas V: 18,000 pounds or so
SpaceX Falcon 9: 27,000 pounds or so
Ares I: 50,000 pounds or so

See the difference? Ares I is also rated for man-flight, which just makes everything much more complicated.

The article is from a florida newspaper. Of course florida newspapers are going to print doom stories because they don't want to lose Shuttle business. Losing business happens.

Re:Why the Ares I? -- Uhh, payload? (1)

Phairdon (1158023) | about 6 years ago | (#24229791)

Not to reply to my own post, but even if my exact numbers here are wrong, the idea is the same. None of the other rockets that exist now can handle the payload needed and be safe for humans to sit on it. That's your basic 4th grade answer to your question.

Re:Why the Ares I? (1)

Solandri (704621) | about 6 years ago | (#24230137)

Totally off-topic, but your subject line reminded me. Is anyone else disturbed that we're naming our new launch vehicle after the god of war [wikipedia.org] ?

I get the whole Ares -> Mars -> mission to Mars reference, but it's not like the Saturn V went to Saturn.

Half full (1)

Burgundy Advocate (313960) | about 6 years ago | (#24229309)

The Ares 1 rocket's design remains too weak for the proposed Orion Spacecraft.

There, fixed that for ya.

Prediction (1)

oldspewey (1303305) | about 6 years ago | (#24229319)

By the time Orion is actually getting ready to launch, Richard Branson (or somebody like him) will have rendered the entire program irrelevant by creating something cheaper/faster/better.

Re:Prediction (1)

Moofie (22272) | about 6 years ago | (#24229905)

Get back to me when he has an orbit-capable vehicle.

I'm not saying he won't, but he surely doesn't have one now.

Too Heavy (1)

hidannik (1085061) | about 6 years ago | (#24229337)

The capsule is too heavy? Just use bigger nukes! What? Oh, you mean that Orion. My bad.

Hans

Personally... (1)

aztektum (170569) | about 6 years ago | (#24229361)

I have less of an issue with NASA being over budget than something like the census bureau. Trust our government to take one simple, Constitutionally mandated action (counting heads) and blow as much tax money on it as they can. [slashdot.org]

Then there is the whole pesky war thing ...

No suprise, the gov can not get much right! (1)

tommyjt24 (1296759) | about 6 years ago | (#24229489)

How could we expect this to be any different then our wasted tax dollars on the over budget, waste of money, defense programs. Those that have worked on defense programs know what I'm talking about! I would agree that space exploration should finally revert to being privately funded. I for one would fund it, mostly because I already do for my dishNetwork, the question would be how much is the real cost?

Programming language (1, Interesting)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | about 6 years ago | (#24229499)

Anyone know if they're mandating Ada?

Project Orion... oh, rats... (2, Insightful)

argent (18001) | about 6 years ago | (#24229603)

Damn, I thought they were talking about Project Orion [wikipedia.org] .

Go Robotic (2, Interesting)

squoozer (730327) | about 6 years ago | (#24229607)

I would like to question the reason to build a human carrying shuttle at all right now. While it's certainly very cool to be able to shoot people into space and have the walk around on the Moon is it really the most cost effective way to do the research? Huge amounts of money are spent researching ways to keep our poorly space adapted feeble bodies alive in space which could otherwise be spent making some really great breakthroughs in the robotics and perhaps AI fields.

I'm not questioning whether we should do space research (which I would like to see more of even though I think it's an expensive luxury) but I am saying that we should be maximum bang for our buck both in space and down here in the real world.

When is our Uncle going to set CLUE = 1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24229609)

Why don't they open-source the development of the damn thing?

We've seen how many times now that communities of interest can do a FAR better job than rigid hierarchies. The government needs to set clue=1 and start working more openly on stuff like this...or it will _always_ be late and over budget...and built half assed.

Open source design? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24229675)

Why not?

Inefficiency (2, Insightful)

stmfreak (230369) | about 6 years ago | (#24229721)

I'm sure there are a lot of smart people at NASA who can do quite a lot on their modest government regulated salaries.

But I'm equally sure they are vastly outnumbered by mediocre and downright incompetent talent that waste tax payer dollars doing little, nothing or actually counter-producing by dragging the aforementioned smart people into their screwed up projects on last-minute, emergency fix-this sessions.

It's the nature of government employment methodology: "keep the fat."

Thank god we have some rich billionaires developing the commercial space program.

Why were they so good in the 60's? (1)

somethinghollow (530478) | about 6 years ago | (#24229835)

It seems almost unforgivable that this is happening now with our engineering tools having advanced so much in the last 40+ years, especially now that computers are there to do a lot of the work. Why is it that we can't do now what we were doing in the 60s? Is there too much red tape? Are the engineers less competent? I don't get it.

Man in Space? Or WWIII in Space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#24229979)

Isn't it ironic that all these debates about space launchers and exploration, are always restricted to one nation's nationalist efforts?

Why all this camp drama over which "American" launcher will be work/ be produced/ etc.... when certainly OTHER countries' space programs are alive and well, the Russian, the Chinese, it certainly looks like the ESA will be developing their manned 'CEV' atop their experience with Jules Verne cargoship... So "mankind" is definetely going to continue exploring space and other planets, and the Russians certainly don't seem averse to paying passengers, so there's always an option if 'Americans' really need to be in space (more than any other nationality, Bolivians?)

It's funny, all the space imagery and idealism is so 'pure', so open to possibilities of the universe, yet so many (in this thread, and so many I see on Slashdot and other sites) tie down their dreams of space to mere terrestrial geopolitics and nationalism...!?!? Would it be unimaginable when dreaming some future of mankind in space, if the United States did not even exist a century or two from now? Why is it so necessary for the American state to be the dominant occupier of outer space? (For it's own geopolitical reasons, of course, but why the investment of emotional energy in that outcome? Why not champion any and every side who is willing and able to explore space? The Europeans? The Russians? These are all human beings as well, right?)

Management problems (1)

jgarra23 (1109651) | about 6 years ago | (#24230123)

The people at NASA have done some great things in the past so I'm not knocking them too hard but does anyone else get the feeling that they're being run by a bunch of career bureaucrats more interested in securing their pension rather than space exploration?

I think the whole idea of NASA needs to be scrapped and redesigned from the ground up.

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