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Next-Gen Mars Rover In Danger of Cancellation

timothy posted about 6 years ago | from the infinite-possibilities-finite-taxpayers dept.

Mars 210

OriginalArlen writes "NASA's next-generation rover, the nuclear-powered, laser-equipped Mars Science Laboratory is reported to be at a serious risk of cancellation due to budget and schedule overruns, including non-delivery of vital parts by a subcontractor. Costs are running over $2B so far, and the already thin schedule of Mars missions planned for the next decade — with budget ring-fenced for an outer-planets flagship mission — is in danger of further cuts."

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Love space, but... (1, Insightful)

copponex (13876) | about 6 years ago | (#25287303)

It may be time to put NASA brains on some more immediate problems, like alternative energy, and studying the causes of the continuing decline of every ecosystem on earth. Visiting Mars may be a lot nicer knowing that the astronauts have a habitable planet to return to.

Re:Love space, but... (5, Insightful)

R2.0 (532027) | about 6 years ago | (#25287375)

"It may be time to put NASA brains on some more immediate problems, like alternative energy, and studying the causes of the continuing decline of every ecosystem on earth. Visiting Mars may be a lot nicer knowing that the astronauts have a habitable planet to return to."

2 comments:

1) Neither alternative energy or biodiversity is in Nasa's purview. we can debate whether it should be the business of the Federal Government at all, but NASA's not the place for it.

2) Per Larry Niven, "The dinosaurs went extinct because they didn't have a space program". If one views the survival of the human species as important, rather than the survival of the ecosystem per se, then having an escape plan is ALWAYS good policy.

Re:Love space, but... (2)

copponex (13876) | about 6 years ago | (#25287861)

1) Neither alternative energy or biodiversity is in Nasa's purview. we can debate whether it should be the business of the Federal Government at all, but NASA's not the place for it.

Right. Let the free market do for the environment what it's done for the banking industry.

I would be in favor of temporarily suspending the NASA program, utilizing those resources to come up with new energy technology, and then licensing that technology to help fund the resurrected space program.

2) Per Larry Niven, "The dinosaurs went extinct because they didn't have a space program". If one views the survival of the human species as important, rather than the survival of the ecosystem per se, then having an escape plan is ALWAYS good policy.

Strange. I thought the dinosaurs died because they were unable to adapt to a changing environment. Is the sensible solution spending a huge amount of resources trying to invent an environment has an extremely low probability of success, and and even lower probability of long term viability, or preserving our existing environment that has supported life for hundreds of millions of years?

Re:Love space, but... (3, Insightful)

Arthur B. (806360) | about 6 years ago | (#25288031)

Than banking industry is NOT free market, the rent of money is set by the Federal reserve, you need a license to do banking... where do I start ?

Most environmental problems can be traced back to state intervention and lack of property rights. Not all, but most.

As for space colonization, it's the best bet against catastrophic events. Redundant systems are good.

Re:Love space, but... (1)

Sarutobi (1135167) | about 6 years ago | (#25289725)

"Most environmental problems can be traced back to state intervention and lack of property rights. Not all, but most." Care to give examples?

Re:Love space, but... (5, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 6 years ago | (#25288171)

I would be in favor of temporarily suspending the NASA program, utilizing those resources to come up with new energy technology, and then licensing that technology to help fund the resurrected space program.

Sorry, but this sounds like a classic bad management decision. Take folks off Project A in favor of Project B. Here is the problem... the folks who do Project A might not be the right people for project B. Some will. Some won't. Now, all those smart folks without a job. What do they do? They are smart, they find other jobs. Now, open Project A back up. Those folks just jump at the opportunity to go back to that project, right? If you think so, you know little about human behavior. Those folks will be settled in to a new life, fund a different way of being happy and making a living. You have just lost decades of wisdom and knowledge about a very specialized area of knowledge.

And subcontractors. Think about them. There are a lot of businesses that give NASA what it needs in terms of components. Some, this is their only (or main) job. Some it is a division of a larger corporation. cancel all NASA projects for a while. Now reopen in a decade. You are going to have to rebuild that supply system again. It doesn't happen quickly or cheaply.

Now is research into cleaner energy important? Yes. But don't destroy another system because of it. There are more intelligent ways of going about it.

Re:Love space, but... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25288453)

There are more intelligent ways of going about it.

You must be new here.

Re:Love space, but... (4, Insightful)

gstoddart (321705) | about 6 years ago | (#25289369)

Right. Let the free market do for the environment what it's done for the banking industry.

Well, remember, the people at NASA might not have the skillset we need to look at issues like biodiversity and alternate energy. The engineering and aerospace skills the people have may not translate. MBAs might look at people as fungible [wikipedia.org] goods, but the guy who has been doing extensive research into orbital mechanics might not actually know much about things which are applicable.

I would be in favor of temporarily suspending the NASA program, utilizing those resources to come up with new energy technology, and then licensing that technology to help fund the resurrected space program.

The problem with that is, if you suspend it, and you ever wanted it back ... there's a huge ramp-up time to get your space program back on line. There's also a lot of stuff that you need a space program for -- we've become highly dependent on communications satellites and the like. You don't want to give up on that.

I think governments (or anyone) should avoid looking at is as "either we invest in space" or "we invest in alternate energies". We should continue to invest in both, because there is a need for both.

If you're really looking to save money, I bet there's an awful lot of defense and other spending you could look at.

"Per Larry Niven, "The dinosaurs went extinct because they didn't have a space program"."

Strange. I thought the dinosaurs died because they were unable to adapt to a changing environment.

Well, as much as it's a fairly glib quote from Niven, it's not really that opposite to what you said.

In a lot of ways, investing in a space program and investing money in basic scientific research can be looked at as trying to learn how you'd adapt to a changing environment. Only, it's what you do when you have opposable thumbs and frontal lobes instead of waiting for evolution to sort it out for you.

Cheers

Re:Love space, but... (0, Flamebait)

trongey (21550) | about 6 years ago | (#25288387)

..."The dinosaurs went extinct because they didn't have a space program"...

Best argument I ever heard for cancelling the space program.

Re:Love space, but... (1)

indytx (825419) | about 6 years ago | (#25288745)

If one views the survival of the human species as important, rather than the survival of the ecosystem per se, then having an escape plan is ALWAYS good policy.

Think of it more as an incomplete backup strategy than an escape policy. As a practical matter, there is no way the billions of people on Earth can "escape."

Re:Love space, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25288923)

The key word in that quote is "species". We don't need all the people on earth to escape. I think we can safely leave all the lawyers and politicians behind.

Re:Love space, but... (2, Insightful)

R2.0 (532027) | about 6 years ago | (#25289153)

"We don't need all the people on earth to escape. I think we can safely leave all the lawyers and politicians behind."

My strategy is to divide the populace into 3 categories - the most important, the breeders, and the non-breeders. That's also the priority for launches.

The "most important" category will be filled with those who have the power to influence the system to get themselves rescued - politicians, lawyers, Hollywood types. We load them all onto a ship and launch them first, to prepare society for the future colonists.

Then, right after launch, we blow the fucker up.

Then send up the breeders. They'll make it OK. As for the non-breeders, they really wouldn't relevant at such a point in human history.

Re:Love space, but... (5, Insightful)

Mortiss (812218) | about 6 years ago | (#25287395)

Sheesh.... why every time there is a NASA/LHC (circle the appropriate) story there is always someone who yells: "forget space, forget LHC, forget any difficult research (circle the appropriate) and think of children/poor/3rd world nations (circle the appropriate)

How many times does it have to be repeated...."you never know what kind of benefits this research may bring! It needs to be diverse!"

Re:Love space, but... (3, Funny)

pilgrim23 (716938) | about 6 years ago | (#25287435)

Venkman: This city is headed for a disaster of biblical proportions.
Mayor: What do you mean, biblical?
Ray: What he means is Old Testament, Mr. Mayor... real Wrath-of-God-type stuff. Fire and brimstone coming down from the skies.
Venkman: Rivers and seas boiling!
Egon: 40 years of darkness, earthquakes, volcanos.
Winston:The dead rising from the grave!
Venkman: Human sacrifice, dogs and cats, living together... mass hysteria!

Re:Love space, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25288577)

Nice, but we already know the benefits of solar power /alternative energy.

I'd much rather see solar power stations in orbit than whether some robot can tell us about Mars.
If we had an actual plan to colonize Mars that would be different, but until then, I support the original parent's opinion.

Changing the esoteric to the exoteric is a fun usage of resources for the typical /. crowd. The rest of us would rather see direct research on things which effect our daily lives. (Like alleviating the looming energy crisis, better agriculture to stop starvation, how to stop Republicans from breeding, etc. etc.)

Re:Love space, but... (4, Insightful)

wilder_card (774631) | about 6 years ago | (#25288685)

Not to mention that it's not an either/or choice. We could do both. Space really doesn't cost much money in the big picture; you'd get way more money for children/poor/etc. by getting people to spend less on cosmetics.

Re:Love space, but... (1)

weopenlatest (748393) | about 6 years ago | (#25288727)

We don't have to forget it, but we can de-prioritize. Personally, I think the LHC was worth it while most space boondoggles are not.

I love reading about space exploration as well as the next slashdotter, but that doesn't mean that we can't weigh costs and benefits. The gov't only has so much money, clearly there are more important things right now than the more wasteful types of space exploration.

Don't forget, we don't have a mars program in order to advance basic research and produce auxiliary technologies -- they're are cheaper and more direct ways to do that. We have a mars program because an idiot president thought it might get him a positive news story and maybe a vote or two.

Re:Love space, but... (1)

exp(pi*sqrt(163)) (613870) | about 6 years ago | (#25289203)

> How many times does it have to be repeated...

By saying this you fall into the trap of justifying space research because it might eventually help children/poor/3rd world nations.

What the hell is the point of having a human race if all it does is breed? Humanity ought to be setting its aims a little higher and actually *do* something worthwhile. We can debate about what specific things are worthwhile, but worthwhile does not mean simply pumping out more babies.

Re:Love space, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25289873)

...but worthwhile does not mean simply pumping out more babies.

You, Sir, have just distinguished yourself from the Democratic Party platform...congratulations!

Re:Love space, but... (2, Funny)

Digital End (1305341) | about 6 years ago | (#25289713)

We don't have time to spend money on microbiology, we have more pressing matters, like half the country having smallpox and polio!

Re:Love space, but... (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | about 6 years ago | (#25287401)

It may be time to put NASA brains working for the private sector, following price signals instead of vague planning, and tax dollars back in banks^H^H^H^H^H people's pocket.

I'd love to live and see at least the beginning of terraformation of Mars but I don't see it happening without a business plan.

Re:Love space, but... (1)

icebrain (944107) | about 6 years ago | (#25288275)

I'd love to live and see at least the beginning of terraformation of Mars but I don't see it happening without a business plan.

I'd love to see Mars terraformed, too... but that will never happen under private industry. It's too long-term for the private sector, which isn't interested if they don't get a return in two years maximum. Hell, [i]next[/i] year is too far out for many corporations.

Re:Love space, but... (1)

Sj0 (472011) | about 6 years ago | (#25289795)

You're so adorable, thinking that Americans actually pay for things.

Don't worry! We put it on the credit cards! We don't have to pay for it!

Re:Love space, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25287449)

There will always be immediate problems where the money "should" go. It's like the folks who want to save for retirement, but can't because there is always immediate bills to pay. If they just had a long term goal of saving as opposed to buying shit all the time, they wouldn't be in that problem.

As we've seen with the "bailout" or "rescue" or whatever it's called now, all this other horseshit was piled on to it. In other words, much of that money in the bill is going for pork so that the morons running for re-election can tell their constituents how they brought so many jobs and money back. In the meantime, programs that would inspire kids to go to school and study science, like NASA, are being strangled. I don't know about you, but I think NASA, in the long term, will do more for our economy and the world than some pork barrel spending that ALL members of Congress partake it.

I'm so fucking disgusted now.

Vote third party or against the incumbent in November!

Re:Love space, but... (5, Insightful)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | about 6 years ago | (#25287505)

There have been major problems on Earth ever since there has been civilization. If we waited to go exploring and discovering until we eliminated war, poverty, crime, and pollution, we would never go anywhere. We'd also miss out on the chance to learn things which could help us to deal with those problems more effectively.

Besides, this is a false dichotomy. We don't need to visit Mars OR save Earth. Earth is more essential, but if we are able we should do both.

Re:Love space, but... (1)

owlstead (636356) | about 6 years ago | (#25288669)

Although I fully agree with almost everything you say, I do think that the current problems are very high indeed. I don't think we've been so close to destroying the earth (as we know it). So if there is a direct budget decision on what to spend money on, I would definitely go for alternative energy and trying to combat overpopulation of this planet.

Re:Love space, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25289631)

GI Button Masher sitting in a silo in Kansas from the time of the Korean war until Desert Storm might disagree with you on that whole "closer to world destruction now than ever before" thing.

NASA Already Leading Those Projects (5, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#25287555)

The time to start putting NASA brains on alternative energy solutions, and studying the causes of global ecosystem decline was in the 1960s.

Good thing we did just that. Fuelcells, solar PV, and pushing mechanical efficiencies to their theoretical limits has been among the best Return on Investment from our NASA budgets ever since the Apollo Program. Global ecology might not even exist without NASA satellites both inspiring the public and gushing data to scientists. Innovation in energy engineering and ecology science has been falling back to Earth for about as long as NASA has been lauching devices off of it.

In fact, the R&D for visiting Mars has lots of "dual use" in delivering "survival tech" here on Earth long before we ever get to Mars. And of course the systems on Mars will need efficiencies and exploitation systems that will work here on Earth, Mars' sister planet. Plus, studying Mars' "parallel evolution" more directly, especially after its climate has evidently catastrophically changed from one more like ours today, is an unequaled opportunity to study what looks like our possible future, without either waiting or having to guess.

These are the main reasons to love space, and NASA's exploration of it. Because Earth is in space, too. What NASA teaches us about space, we learn about ourself. And since NASA primarily teaches us about machines for living in space with extremely limited resources, while we push ours at home to the brink, we need more of exactly what NASA has already given us now more than ever.

We love space because it is there. (1)

tjstork (137384) | about 6 years ago | (#25288261)

There's no need to rationalize NASA. You can't calculate an economic return for it any more than you can calculate the return of a brilliant song, but we sense that those are needed to enrich the human spirit. There are some challenges that great nations must undertake to further the human condition and understanding, like, as the Egyptians built massive monuments, so too the USA must lead the charge into space. When NASA sends back pictures of far away places, when Americans plant a flag on the moon, all of mankind gains from the experience.

News Flash (1)

Spencerian (465343) | about 6 years ago | (#25287589)

All energy is "alternative."

If you're trying to say we need to use something other than gasoline to drive, I agree.

But every erg of energy we have comes from the sun, directly or indirectly. Natural gas comes mostly from coal fields, for example. Sailing to work is not likely to happen, sadly.

Not all of it is portable and/or desirable, such as having a small fission reactor in your car. It's there, however.

As are billions of gallons of oil sitting for the taking in a few pieces of tundra.

Re:News Flash (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25287935)

All energy is "alternative."

One could argue that fusion/fission reactions have nothing to do with energy coming from the sun.

Re:News Flash (1)

Sj0 (472011) | about 6 years ago | (#25289835)

Fission reactions rely on heavy metals which were formed in fusion reactions of ancient stars.

Re:Love space, but... (1)

szquirrel (140575) | about 6 years ago | (#25287991)

It may be time to put NASA brains on some more immediate problems...

You're assuming that:

1. There aren't already lots of brains at work on these problems, and

2. Throwing more brains at the problems will solve them significantly faster.

Also keep in mind that you could pull all of the smart brains at NASA, Intel, Google, Pixar and a thousand other groups to work exclusively on the immediate problems of the day, only to find out that the problems they are no longer working on were a lot more important than you thought. NASA in particular has produced lots of solutions that at first seemed quite narrow but turned out to be applicable to a wide variety of problems (including solar power, while we're on the subject).

Humans are pretty smart. We can do more than one thing at one time. Some of our most striking discoveries turn up when we aren't even sure what we're looking for.

Re:Love space, but... (1)

camperdave (969942) | about 6 years ago | (#25288007)

Alternative energy and ecosystem management are not NASA's job. NASA's job is Aeronautics and Space.

That should be a Democratic Argument (1)

tjstork (137384) | about 6 years ago | (#25288121)

I think that, now that government intervention in the economy is now on the table as a policy instrument, that's a good argument for Democrats to make. Let them be the party that wants to curtail forward looking science missions and exploration in favor of more short term social priorities.

On the other hand, let's have Republicans that instead of putting all of the science into the hands of the marketplace, recognize that government spending on the sciences and on technological infrastructure and education helps improve the business climate of the United States.

Any more, arguing over having government do something stupid, versus no government, is sometimes a false choice. When a private enterprise can actually finance missions to Mars and Jupiter profitably, then, by all means, there's no need for the government to do that. But in the meantime, we are on one planet, this is our solar system, the potential of space is nearly limitless, and we must remain committed to understanding it as much as possible.

Re:Love space, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25288191)

NASA is the National Aeronautics and SPACE Administration. That's what they do. That's why they were chartered to exist.

You want them to work on the decline of every ecostystem on earth (which by the way, we generally have a good idea the reasons for - human intrusion, pollution and climate change)?

Who else do you think should be researching this? The coast guard? The IRS? How about the Federal Marshall Service, the Social Security Administration and the Federal Communications Commission?

Jesus Christ! Aside from that, what do you want for "alternative energy"? Is it not good enough for you that NASA has worked on some of the most effecient solar panels ever developed or alternative nuclear energy production methods? Or that they've developed the whole concept of modern fuel cells?

Re:Love space, but... (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | about 6 years ago | (#25288545)

The "S" is for "Space". Agreed, US could use a heavily funded energy program (I don't even understand why there are not a few billions spent on energy research at this point) but this is not the point of NASA. NASA is the luxury that USA bought itself when it was the #1 nation and when it believed that gratuitous R&D was something worthwhile.

Now China does that.

Really long extension cords (1)

Comboman (895500) | about 6 years ago | (#25288841)

It may be time to put NASA brains on some more immediate problems, like alternative energy

Yeah, 'cause an agency that sends electrically powered devices millions of miles from the nearest electrical grid has probably never done any research on alternative energy. They just use really, really long extension cords.

Re:Love space, but... (1)

.sig (180877) | about 6 years ago | (#25288881)

It may be time to put NASA brains on some more immediate problems

FYI - they're doing just that, NASA actually works on more than one thing at a time.

Visiting Mars may be a lot nicer knowing that the astronauts have a habitable planet to return to.

And if things really do get to the point that earth is uninhabitable, it'd be a lot nicer knowing that everyone else has a place to go.

The "war" in Iraq, along with othe "police actions" around the world, cost orders of magnitude more than NASA's entire budget, while providing fewer benefits to us at home - how about we cut those instead?

Re:Love space, but... (1)

jipn4 (1367823) | about 6 years ago | (#25288919)

It may be time to put NASA brains on some more immediate problems, like alternative energy, and studying the causes of the continuing decline of every ecosystem on earth

What's there to study? The causes and remedies of both are very well understood.

Re:Love space, but... (1)

n122vu (1126345) | about 6 years ago | (#25289425)

Very good point. May not necessarily fall on NASA's shoulders as a whole, but any committee formed for such a purpose would definitely benefit from having NASA scientists filling a couple seats in the room.

Re:Love space, but... (1)

No2Gates (239823) | about 6 years ago | (#25289605)

But finding aliens is more fun....

ALl kidding aside, I agree with you 100% THIS planet should be our focus. When we have an extra 20 billion surplus dollars to throw into space, let's go for it, but right now I say we stay here.

Re:Love space, but... (1)

Digital End (1305341) | about 6 years ago | (#25289645)

Just being smart doesn't mean what they know is directly applicable to these other fields. You underestimate how specialized many people in these feilds are... when you dedicate 50 years to learning how gases expand in space, you're damn smart, however you aren't the right man for the job if someone needs to build a mine.

Re:Love space, but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25289739)

Let Climate change happen and keep Government out of it. Big Government is the problem. If it was left up to We the people, the issue would be solved by now. There would be a private business solution. We would be driving automobiles that run on water and sunlight. All our energy would be produced by renewable means. Big Government has prolonged a carbon based energy for 100 years past what it should have been.
Let the people solve the issue.

NASA is great at space exploration. Privatize more of it. Look at what progress privatization has made in such a short time. Much quicker than what Big Government has made in the same time.

Nuclear Powered? Laser Armed? (3, Funny)

R2.0 (532027) | about 6 years ago | (#25287319)

Anyone else thinking that this is just a smokescreen to develop the most awesomest Battlebot ever?

Re:Nuclear Powered? Laser Armed? (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | about 6 years ago | (#25287683)

Anyone else thinking that this is just a smokescreen to develop the most awesomest Battlebot ever?

It could be. That's certainly what the Martians think, which is the real reason it's being canceled. They were okay with us sending a few probes and rovers, but nuclear-powered laser-bots are where they draw the line. So in the name of interplanetary relations the project has to die. Budget overruns is just the cover story, since they can't very well admit that the whole "looking for signs of life" thing is BS as they've known about life on Mars since the 50s. People would either riot and burn down the governments, or come together in a new spirit of love and togetherness amongst humankind. Neither is acceptable.

This is all in TFA, btw, you just have to read between the lines.

Re:Nuclear Powered? Laser Armed? (1)

An ominous Cow art (320322) | about 6 years ago | (#25288079)

I think I'd like to hear the Martian Defense Minister's comments on this story. Haven't heard from him (her? it?) in quite some time.

Re:Nuclear Powered? Laser Armed? (1)

Haelyn (321711) | about 6 years ago | (#25289309)

"The Earth? Oh, the Earth will be gone in just a few seconds. I'm going to blow it up. It obstructs my view of Venus."

-Marvin, spokesman for the Martian Ministry of Defense

Re:Nuclear Powered? Laser Armed? (1)

zumajim (681331) | about 6 years ago | (#25288497)

Just be glad they got to include the lasers. I was hoping they could squeeze out a few more bucks for a pair of Hellfire missiles, but...

iraq war is killing the USA (5, Insightful)

Coraon (1080675) | about 6 years ago | (#25287421)

you know if they shifted the budget for 1 week of the iraq war to this project that probe would already be, well probing things...

Re:iraq war maybe killing NASA (4, Insightful)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | about 6 years ago | (#25287487)

But deficit spending is killing the USA.

Or a few days of Medicare.. (1)

tjstork (137384) | about 6 years ago | (#25287563)

Tell grandma to get a job and pay for her own pills... I want a rover!

Re:iraq war is killing the USA (4, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 6 years ago | (#25287575)

The Iraq war is just a small part of it. We are currently 11 Trillion in debt when you include our bailout of the financial system. I am a fiscal conservative who voted for Bush in 2000, and regretted it by 2002. I believe in a small government, but I also understand that the feds do have important roles to play. Given the option of low taxes and deficits versus higher taxes and a balanced budget I will go balanced all the way.

The fact is the debt costs us every day. The last I check, we spend over $1Billion per day just to finance the debt. That could very well double in the next decade as our credit worthiness goes down, and our debt goes up.

The fact is, no matter how much we earn, we will every satisfy every want that we have. However, when your paycheck goes to debtors, you have to go without more. Space exploration and scientific investment is very important to me... as close to a need as you can get while technically still being a want. However, it must invariably be and has already been curtailed because of our debt.

Iraq will eventually end. Our expenses there will drop. But our debt will hang around our neck like a lead weight. Future generations will have to dig themselves out from under it before investing in the important things, or they will continue to let it balloon as my generation has.

I am truly ashamed that my generation will be the first to leave the country in a worse state than what they received.

Re:iraq war is killing the USA (1)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 6 years ago | (#25287729)

Should be "The last I checked" and "we will never satisfy every want"

Re:iraq war is killing the USA (1, Flamebait)

crmarvin42 (652893) | about 6 years ago | (#25288363)

I am truly ashamed that my generation will be the first to leave the country in a worse state than what they received.

I take this to mean you are a baby boomer, and I appreciate that at least some boomers realize that the world will continue to exist after they're gone.

Re:iraq war is killing the USA (2, Insightful)

MyLongNickName (822545) | about 6 years ago | (#25288449)

I am 35. I am a few years younger than the baby boomer generation. However, you can really view the problems that I see from 1965-today, with a recent spiral in the past 15 years. Some might define the dates differently. The fact is, someone has to stand up, take responsibility and do something to correct. Instead of pointing elsewhere, i would rather point the finger in the mirror and say to those around my age that they need to view leadership much differently.

Re:iraq war is killing the USA (2, Insightful)

crmarvin42 (652893) | about 6 years ago | (#25288833)

I completely agree. My parents are from the tail end of the baby boom and while they raised us to believe that personal accountability is paramount, most of their friends raised children that believe the world owes them a living. If I wrecked my car it was my problem and I had to pay for it (both originally and to fix it). I had friends who's parents bought them brand new cars 3 times in less than 5 years because the kept crashing them while drunk or high. Their parents did everything to help their child avoid the consequences of their actions, while mine made me pay for my own lawyer and court fee's when I got busted for underage drinking.

Stand up, take responsibility (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25289003)

I agree, but it always seems to fall apart, when the reality might mean massive tax increases at the very same time government services are massively cut back. And may include defaulting on some entitlements for future generations.

That's why easy money policies are always replaced with more easy money. Politial reality trumps economic reality.

And the politcal class will flog the currency until it can no longer sustain.

The public doesn't yet see inflation as government stealing from their buying power by printing money.

And the crimes they have been able to get away with can collapse the currency the second the world no longer sees the dollar as their reserve and stop buying our crappy notes.

So far, so good, but the impossible reality is the size of government will have to be deleveraged as much as the housing assets will. But I don't see that happening any time soon.

People will have to accept paying more and getting less. And I don't see that happening. And many workers and savers and sound investors playing by the rules particularly don't like that ideas of paying more and getting less as a response to the reckless and criminal behaviours of others.

Re:iraq war is killing the USA (-1, Flamebait)

toddhisattva (127032) | about 6 years ago | (#25289123)

And if Saddam Hussein had reinforced his contacts with al-Qaeda or started another war with Iran or restarted his dormant weapons programs, or all three plus some fresh hell....

Operation Iraqi Freedom has saved money and lives.

It's better to spend money on a constitutional requirement - "the common defense" - than on the specific welfare of Barack Hussein Obama's ACORN community (or more accurately, communist) organizers.

I guess we should have waited for Saddam Hussein (the Iraqi guy, not the pol from Corruptionland, Illinoise) to actually hit one of our patrolling aircraft, or otherwise "strike first" before we got rid of him.

Just think how many Mars rovers could have been built if the Dummycrats had not:

1) Created FNMA and FHLMC (Fascist Dictator Roosevelt)
2) Sold them to "private" interests (Lyndon Brainless Johnson)
3) Called anybody trying to fix them "racists," as Barney Frank did just yesterday. [breitbart.com]

and probably most importantly,

4) Been the racist pro-slavery KKK anti-civil-rights lily white yellow dog party in the first damn place!

The Bush Legacy (4, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#25287429)

Anyone else notice that Bush's term is leaving the US space program without a Space Shuttle or alternative for staffing or servicing the Space Station that we paid more than our share to build, and actually devastating the manned missions to Mars that would keep our lead among our global competitors? Remember when Bush ran for reelection in 2004 promising us a Mars mission, though everyone knew he was "kidding"?

What we'll have left, after Bush's term is done (in which he put Star Wars scientist and CIA venture capitalist Michael Griffin [wikipedia.org] in charge of NASA) is a space program that mainly launches spy satellites and promotes "space supremacy" for the Pentagon and the CIA. Military satellites now used to spy on Americans [arstechnica.com] .

Re:The Bush Legacy (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 6 years ago | (#25288053)

I'm no Bush fan, by any stretch of the imagination. But, in this case, he is HARDLY alone among U.S. presidents. Every president since Nixon has made grandiose promises about all the great stuff NASA is going to do, while continuing to fund it at a *fraction* of the funding they had during the 60's (leaving NASA in a perpetual "do a few cheap things every year, just enough to keep justifing our funding" mode).

Obama will do the same thing. He'll stand at some podium, talk about how NASA is going to the moon/going to Mars, wax poetically on the future of humanity in space--and then continue to fund NASA at the exact same level Bush did.

Re:The Bush Legacy (3, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#25288549)

Will he? Funny how you extrapolate Obama, a Democrat, from Bush and Nixon, the two most partisan Republicans in history. Despite the records of Kennedy, Johnson, and even financially crippled (by the Nixon/Ford legacy) Carter, and Clinton, too, which show that NASA is a Democratic programme that Republicans lie about and steal from.

I didn't say that Bush was alone. But we can have high expectations of Obama, despite the knowledge (that I'm offering here) that Bush is leaving Obama with a crippled NASA and a devastated budget and economy to fund it from.

Re:The Bush Legacy (1)

elrous0 (869638) | about 6 years ago | (#25289469)

The only thing that believing in any party politician is going to get you is disappointment. Obama talks a good game, but when he gets in, he'll be no different than all the others before him.

Re:The Bush Legacy (3, Interesting)

Overzeetop (214511) | about 6 years ago | (#25288205)

Politics aside, Michael Griffin has been in the space business a long time and is a very intelligent person. He also happens to be borderline rabid on Mars. I took a class on space guidance and navigation (basically a graduate level orbital mechanics class) and our part of our final exam was a Mars mission flight. I was long gone from NASA before he took over, so he could be an administrative nightmare, but he does know his stuff.

As for the Bush promise - yeah, but anyone who understood what was necessary knew he was blowing smoke. I put the mars mission at about $2T, based on previous high profile projects; I might have underestimated by a hair, but I don't think I'm too far off. And, of course, you should never trust any project for which the substantial portion of money will be spent _after_ the politician is certain to be out of office.

Re:The Bush Legacy (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#25288617)

Well, that's even worse. Griffin's NASA isn't stymied by lack of know-how, it's lack of can-do. Though not in Griffin's specialty: Star Wars and spacewar, which Griffin has protected with can-do without the know-how.

NASA is failing because of politics, which was of course injected into its science at every step relevant to the hyperpolitical Bush team, of which Griffin was an essential part. We have to be realistic about how to get NASA working again, starting with replacing Griffin and his Pentagon/CIA priorities with an administrator who will continue to focus on science, and its traditional benefits to American industry and society.

Or we can just let the Bush plan roll on, and leave NASA as decimated an institution as any of the others Bush groped to death this decade.

This is why I'll be voting McCain! (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25288277)

Before you reply: "WTF?!" McCain has a decent policy on our space program [johnmccain.com] , and has supported it while in Congress. This is one area where he's not like Bush.

Re:This is why I'll be voting McCain! (4, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#25288659)

Yeah, Bush had a "decent policy on our space program" too, like a manned Mars mission. But, like McCain is on anything else he's saying this campaign season, he's going to continue the Bush policies he voted with over 90% of the time this decade, and just bait & switch us to some Pentagon/CIA boondoggles instead of NASA's space mission.

You're voting for McCain because you're a Republican. You voted for Bush twice, too. It's not rocket science to see that you're a bad decider. Vote McCain if you want to see him "take up space" in the White House the way that Bush did: get in the way without doing anything useful.

Re:The Bush Legacy (-1, Flamebait)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | about 6 years ago | (#25288365)

Anyone else notice that Bush's term is leaving the US space program without a Space Shuttle or alternative for staffing or servicing the Space Station that we paid more than our share to build, and actually devastating the manned missions to Mars that would keep our lead among our global competitors?

Yes, I did notice that, and in this particular case, I say: Thank God someone in government had brains enough to FINALLY kill that boondoggle.

The space shuttle burned up PHENOMENAL amounts of money for very little payoff. We were never going to get serious about a replacement until that decrepit pile of junk was retired.

And if we end up refocusing on far cheaper unmanned missions, so much the better. We can go back to manned space travel when private space gets us there a hell of a lot cheaper, and as a side benefit, you and I can go there as well and not just a bunch of government blessed people.

Death to the Space Shuttle!

Re:The Bush Legacy (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#25288777)

If we had a replacement while retiring the Shuttle, I might agree with you. But instead, like every other Republican programme (that you voted for, twice), the glimmer of sense was just the bait to switch us to a disastrous policy leaving us at the mercy of our foreign competitors.

Without the Shuttle, but with the other boondoggle - the Space Station - still sucking up cash, scientists and management, we're dependent on Russian launches to get us there. Russians who are again among our chief global rivals, not exactly cooperating with us. Joined by a rich, ramped up China that is racing us to industrial missions on the Moon and Mars. This time, neither Russia nor China is bogged down fighting the other while we advance ahead of them: we are now in their positions with each other, while they're free to rush forwards, standing on our decades of space leadership.

By the time we get back to manned space missions, an unpredictable and long delayed schedule which - again - you voted for twice in Bush, we will be playing catchup. And on planetoids, actual exclusive claims will be staked that will leave the US grabbing for the lesser targets. You might have been satisfied to squander America's leadership by voting for Bush twice, but that doesn't leave your judgment much credit to go on anymore.

Re:The Bush Legacy (1)

Reality Master 101 (179095) | about 6 years ago | (#25288987)

This time, neither Russia nor China is bogged down fighting the other while we advance ahead of them: we are now in their positions with each other, while they're free to rush forwards, standing on our decades of space leadership.

Who cares? Seriously -- can you give me one good reason why we should care whether other countries have a government-sponsored space program that's ahead of ours? Let them "rush forward" (to what???) and waste their money for awhile.

Meanwhile, the area that we're ahead in that matters is in private space companies. How many private companies are currently developing space in those countries? Do you think Russia or China will give us a space hotel?

Re:The Bush Legacy (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 6 years ago | (#25289249)

One good reason is that private financing for space programs will flow to those foreign competitors, and away from us. Another related reason is that if China has an edge it wants to protect from US public funding, its dictatorial stake in our required debt economy will give it the power to further defeat our competing program.

You're simply ignoring the entire history of national space programs, which typically both keep their own efforts secret until unveiled in success, and try to interfere with the competition's when they can get away with it. Even during the post-Soyuz era of the past 30 years, that competition has been cutthroat. Leaving the leadership to Russia and China, rather than the US (which is actually inclined to be open), will only make the effects of that kind of competition worse, even as we have a harder time playing catchup.

Not Surprised. (1)

Spencerian (465343) | about 6 years ago | (#25287447)

Odds are that that Congress will send the little thing away. Sad, but not surprising. Politicians are myopic opportunistic creatures that managed to stuff 100 billion of porked, unrelated projects into a 700 billion economic bill. Talk about a lopsided understanding of budgeting.

The government is intent on phasing out the Space Shuttles in favor of the Orion, or, based on its appearance and supposed existence no earlier than two years after the Orbiters stop flying, I call it the Disappearing Pencil Trick.

Never mind that we might lose a ride to our own station if relations with Russia continue to cool over the South Ossetia thing.

What do we need to get better and/or more efficient funding for space ventures? Perhaps a large rock heading right for us?

Where the hell (3, Insightful)

jayhawk88 (160512) | about 6 years ago | (#25287489)

Are the pork barrel last minute additions to the $700 billion buyout package for this kind of stuff? NASA doesn't have lobbyists? No congressmen from Florida or Alabama have this kind of pull?

Re:Where the hell (1)

carn1fex (613593) | about 6 years ago | (#25288683)

NASA employees are directly barred from lobbying as are all civil servants by the Hatch Act (wiki). [wikipedia.org] Though people in congress do step in for specific projects now and then, notably Hubble and Sen. Barbara Mikulski, it is unfortunately rare.

Re:Where the hell (1)

internerdj (1319281) | about 6 years ago | (#25289115)

Sorry the congressmen from Alabama were busy trying to look out for the average citizen to push in extra funding for the state. Guess that means we have our voting priorities wrong here in Alabama.

So what? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25287501)

I mean, it's sad and all, and I understand that space exploration has benefits, but with the economy in the shape it's in, NASA just doesn't seem quite so important right now.

Once the economy has had a chance to recover, then we can worry about spending money on space probes. But given that the summary seems to suggest this project was mismanaged, cutting it and using the money to bootstrap the economy seems like the much wiser choice.

Not $2B Over (5, Insightful)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | about 6 years ago | (#25287623)

Just to clarify, the rover is not $2 billion over budget, which is the impression I got from the summary. It is $500 million over its $1.5 billion budget, and part of that is due to inflation.

If we try to delay the launch, the delay will cost us an extra $300 million. If we cancel the launch, we just spent $2 billion on nothing, and the science it was meant to do remains undone. This shouldn't be a hard decision:

1. Pony up and get this thing launched.
2. Investigate how this happened so we can avoid overruns like this in the future.

Re:Not $2B Over (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25288255)

Easy to know how it happened.. bigger hunger than pocketbook on doing something really, really difficult where it's hard to accurately know how much it will cost. So the generally optimistic folks think "success-oriented-schedule". And the endpoint of that schedule can't move.. it's not like "oh, we'll have to release the bug fix version a couple months later".. nope.. gotta launch when Mars is at the right position relative to Earth, every 26 months.

Add to that the fact that there's a lot of "free labor" from dedicated toilers at JPL, which means that it's hard to know how much the last one "really cost" as opposed to "booked cost".

Re:Not $2B Over (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about 6 years ago | (#25289177)

Actually you can release some bug fixes. Spirit and Opportunity got a patch enroute.

Otherwise I'm in complete agreement. It's like budgeting a cold fusion project. You're developing something with almost no frame of reference. You know it's going to cost a lot. It might be really easy but there isn't a dealership estimate book to open and say "Oh yeah the dealer's manual says a custom nuclear powered mars rover should take 1,000,000 hours."

Re:Not $2B Over (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25289679)

The government needs to approve fewer things, but make sure that these projects that ARE approved receive proper funding until they are completed. This way we dont have all of these projects that are half-way finished and scrapped, resulting in huge wastes of tax-payer money. ...and wormholes.

Not to late to save it (3, Funny)

ciaohound (118419) | about 6 years ago | (#25287703)

nuclear-powered, laser-equipped

Couldn't it just be repurposed to fight terrorists?

Re:Not to late to save it (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25288183)

They tried that. However, NASA Funding Engineers realized that if they were to pitch this project as a way to fight space terrorism then the project would be flooded with so much cash that the engineers would actually, literally drown in cash.

Interestingly they also considered pushing it as "a way to fight space terrorism that hardly works at all, it will be very bad at fighting space terrorism but that's what it is for". It turns out that this actually increased the drowning problem several fold.

Weird.

Why not more MERs? (2, Insightful)

Minimum_Wage (1003821) | about 6 years ago | (#25287741)

Given how well the two MER rovers are working, why not just build a couple more of them and send them to different locations on Mars? Seems like right now it would be better to explore more areas and get a better overall view of the martian geology. Better to have a limited (from a science standpoint) presence on Mars than put all your eggs in a $2B basket, IMHO.

Re:Why not more MERs? (1)

delt0r (999393) | about 6 years ago | (#25288487)

That is in fact a really good idea. But you know what, there are a lot of R&D folk without a job if you recycle designs, even good ones. NASA and aerospace in general is just as much pork as other high government funded sectors.

Re:Why not more MERs? (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#25288759)

Given how well the two MER rovers are working, why not just build a couple more of them and send them to different locations on Mars?

Because it is far from certain the next pair will do as well... Because the MER landing system can only handle smooth, low altitude sites - we've been lucky they've survived long enough to cruise into areas they couldn't have landed in.
 
But mostly because the engineering team that built has been disbanded and moved onto other projects long ago. It would take years to get MER V1.0.1 to the surface of Mars. Nor would you actually save much money - as you don't get any benefits from economies of scale.

Re:Why not more MERs? (1)

ruin20 (1242396) | about 6 years ago | (#25289389)

a $2B basket measured in feet

non-delivery of vital parts by a subcontractor (1)

Randall311 (866824) | about 6 years ago | (#25287865)

Tell me this isn't a government op. :-P

The US can't do big science (5, Interesting)

mcelrath (8027) | about 6 years ago | (#25288035)

The US is in a very bad position with respect to "Big Science". The problem basically is that any congress can't tie the hands of any future congress, and the consequence of this for science is that every single project faces cancellation, every single year. This has led to the cancellation many projects, a prominent example being the Superconducting Supercollider [wikipedia.org] .

Science has a much longer-term view than congress. Congress, at most, has a view that lasts 2 years (to the next election), and practically it's much less than that. The US needs to devise a scheme to keep these projects going through hard times, and through fickle congressional actions. A constitutional amendment is unlikely, but how about some creative financing, of the "trust fund" variety? When things run over budget, bring in auditors, fire some people, but at all costs, make sure the science happens.

I'm at CERN, where the funding comes from member states as a fraction of their GDP. As a consequence, CERN has an extremely stable budget compared to US labs. If a project runs over-budget, the lab can simply delay the project. They also have a large permanent staff, so when new ideas come up, they can very quickly move to answer scientific questions, without building entirely new facilities. The expertise already exists here.

Canceling a project has disastrous consequences. Not only do you lose the science that would be gained, you may also lose the scientists, and technology developed along the way. It really is selling out future generations, and sacrificing technological advancement on a long timescale. It's very hard to see what will happen 50 years in the future, but I don't think human colonies on Mars are out of the question, perhaps spurred by the discoveries of the Mars Science Laboratory. Basic research has always paid off in the long run.

The US will lose out on the discoveries that will be made by the LHC. The US could have done it with the SSC a decade ago. How many more times does this have to happen before the US realizes it's a bad idea to cancel projects, and fixes the problem?

Re:The US can't do big science (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#25288797)

When things run over budget, bring in auditors, fire some people, but at all costs, make sure the science happens.

I love it when a plan consists of essentially...

1) Bring in Auditors
2) Fire People
3) ????????
4) As if by magic - Science Happens!

Re:The US can't do big science (1)

mcelrath (8027) | about 6 years ago | (#25289293)

The goal is to control costs. As long as you don't fire all the scientists or cancel the project outright, the project will still happen and the discoveries will be made. There's no magic in that.

Re:The US can't do big science (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 6 years ago | (#25289839)

As long as you don't fire all the scientists or cancel the project outright, the project will still happen and the discoveries will be made.

Right. Let's say a project is $X over budget, and requires $Y to complete - fire half the staff, and you're *still* $X over budget and *still* require $Y (or something close to it) to complete. Absent magic, you still haven't saved any money. In fact its not unlikely that your costs actually _increase_, as reduced staff means a longer time to completion - which means inflation increases your cost to complete above $Y. And that doesn't take into account any difficulties found along the way... Consider just the history of the magnets on the LHC for example.
 
As I said, your plan requires magic to work once you move beyond the lofty and handwaving statement of principles and into the blood and sweat of the real world.

Good (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25288137)

I'm all for space exploration...but it is a complete waste of tax dollars. I know it's expensive and out of the hands of most people/corporations, but spending money to look at faraway rocks is the last thing my money needs to be doing. At least, not the money that is automatically deducted from my paychecks.

Overspending (4, Insightful)

speroni (1258316) | about 6 years ago | (#25288303)

I'd rather over spend a little on a space program than on a war.

700 billion (5, Insightful)

nexttech (1289308) | about 6 years ago | (#25288405)

The government does not like a $2 billion cost overrun and yet it give's $700 billion dollars to a bunch of morons who can't keep their business afloat.

Re:700 billion (1)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | about 6 years ago | (#25289223)

Correction: $500 million cost overrun.
Second Correction: $850 billion bailout plan.

Re:700 billion (2, Interesting)

TheQuantumShift (175338) | about 6 years ago | (#25289847)

Billions already collected from risky financing, and now billions more collected to "bail out". Yeah, those guys are morons.

I knew this is going to happen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25288423)

I knew this is going to happen after market crashed...

Nuclear energy... (1)

sam0737 (648914) | about 6 years ago | (#25288681)

It means something like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radioisotope_thermoelectric_generator [wikipedia.org] , right?

That would means the lifespan could be estimated accurately and no surprise is possible. Remember those two rovers were supposed to live only for 90 days due to the power? There is the surprise!

Oh never mind, at this point I realized that the surprise came from under-estimation...NASA, please announce the estimated life time of the next rover in half to keep us surprised.

Priorities, people! (1)

TheDarkener (198348) | about 6 years ago | (#25289275)

FORGET the $2B (or whatever it is and change) for space exploration and the advancement of the human race... WE NEED TO SAVE WALL STREET!

cancel it (1)

Sam36 (1065410) | about 6 years ago | (#25289821)

I say cancel it and hand the would be spent money over to the obama campaign so that he can then give it to illegal immigrants and then the rest of that he should give to his poor brother who lives in africa and only makes $5 a month. This will bring great glory to allah
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