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Setbacks Cast Doubt On NASA's Ares Project

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the tax-dollars-to-space-at-best dept.

Space 255

stoolpigeon writes with this excerpt from an Orlando Sentinel article about the Ares program, which paints a bleak picture of the program's future: "Bit by bit, the new rocket ship that is supposed to blast America into the second Space Age and return astronauts to the moon appears to be coming undone. First was the discovery that it lacked sufficient power to lift astronauts in a state-of-the-art capsule into orbit. Then engineers found out that it might vibrate like a giant tuning fork, shaking its crew to death. Now, in the latest setback to the Ares I, computer models show the ship could crash into its launch tower during liftoff. "

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No worries (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25523913)

It's all good. The moon landings were faked anyway ;)

It is called engineering. (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25523919)

There are going to be setbacks. Mistakes will be made. For the most part these rocket surgeons do the job, on time.

Personally, I'd like to see them re-engineer the Saturn V. Didn't it run linux?

Re:It is called engineering. (4, Interesting)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#25523965)

The Saturn V is (was) built from what is now antiquated technology. I'd rather see then implement Jupiter. [space.com]

Re:It is called engineering. (4, Interesting)

iocat (572367) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524013)

From everything I've read, it was basically total luck they never lost a Saturn V with astronauts attached. I saw one estimate that put it at a 1:6 chance per launch of the thing not working in a fatal way.

Anyway, I'd rather they found these errors now, rather than later...

Re:It is called engineering. (0)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524117)

They did lose a crew. Apollo I during pad testing.

Re:It is called engineering. (5, Informative)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524133)

They did lose a crew. Apollo I during pad testing.

The Apollo 1 fatalities were not due to the rocket. Additionally, Apollo 1 wasn't mounted on a Saturn V, so the comparison is moot.

Re:It is called engineering. (1)

Wyatt Earp (1029) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524187)

True it was a IB. Sorry, late and forgot.

Re:It is called engineering. (2, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524359)

There were mistakes made with Apollo 1 that should never have happened, and the fixes to the Apollo spacecraft did substantially improve astronaut safety for future missions.

One of the most insane mistakes made on the Apollo 1 vehicle: There was no method for astronauts, once mounted inside of the spacecraft, to be able to get themselves out (shy of grabbing a hammer and pounding through the side of the vehicle). It was anticipated that even on landing that the recovery vehicles would open the door for the astronauts (so as to not repeat Virgil Grissom's perceived mistake on Liberty Bell 7, the Mercury flight).

There were many others, including the 100% pure oxygen environment @ sealevel pressure that also caused some huge problems.

Re:It is called engineering. (4, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524121)

One huge difference between the Apollo/Saturn design and the Space Shuttle was multiple methods of abort that would separate the manned portion from the rest of the rocket. Things like the launch escape rocket (the little pointy thing on the top of the command module) and the ability to fire subsequent stages to at least get the astronauts way the hell away from a problem stage would have saved the astronauts in the event that the Saturn V had problems.

The Saturn V got a little more dicey once you decided to move out of low earth orbit on the 3rd stage and head for the Moon.... such as what Apollo 13 found out the hard way. But even that had redundancies that simply haven't existed for the Space Shuttle.

I certainly would trust the Saturn V and its safety record over the Shuttle. Had we been using the Saturn V for the past 40 years with the same level of upgrades and technical improvements that have gone into the Shuttle, including proposed "Apollo II" vehicles that would have carried seven astronauts at once, I have no doubt that we would have a vehicle right now that would be considerably more reliable than even the Soyuz spacecraft (currently the best "proven" manned spacecraft design for safety).

We might have even saved a whole bunch of money compared to what it has cost us to run the whole Shuttle program. Wernher von Braun certainly was anticipating production runs on the Saturn V on the order of hundreds of rockets, not the dozen or so that actually were built.

Re:It is called engineering. (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524195)

One huge difference between the Apollo/Saturn design and the Space Shuttle was multiple methods of abort that would separate the manned portion from the rest of the rocket. Things like the launch escape rocket (the little pointy thing on the top of the command module) and the ability to fire subsequent stages to at least get the astronauts way the hell away from a problem stage would have saved the astronauts in the event that the Saturn V had problems.

I heard of a design not too long ago for a capsule which could use RCS thrusters both for normal landings and for launch escape. The Apollo LES had to be very powerful to get the CM high enough to deploy parachutes. Take them out of the equation and you have a might lighter vehicle.

Re:It is called engineering. (4, Informative)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524259)

One of the most interesting things to note about Soyuz is in fact the Launch Escape System.

It's been used twice, and both times, the cosmonauts were pretty pissed off afterward (nobody likes 21gs), but were able to walk away from the incident.

Both incidents were pretty remarkable. The first occurred after the vehicle caught fire on the pad, with the LES (manually) activating two seconds before the vehicle literally exploded on the pad.

The second occurred mid-way through launch, after one of the stages failed to separate. In this case, the LES activated while the rocket was pointing down toward the earth. The capsule then landed on the side of a snow-covered mountain near the Chinese border, and rolled 500 yards before coming to a halt. (The Russians somehow anticipated this sort of situation, and there was cold-weather gear stored on-board for the cosmonauts).

I stress, once again that despite these "worst case scenario" failures, the crew were relatively unharmed, which is a pretty strong testament to the inherent safety of a very simplistic (by rocket science standards) system such as Soyuz.

Re:It is called engineering. (5, Informative)

sponga (739683) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524607)

Here is the video of both of them

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UyFF4cpMVag [youtube.com]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AyoBHBOnscY&feature=related [youtube.com]

Hehe, you could see the Russian general pull on his collar when they aborted probably thinking "Gorbachev is gonna have my balls pinned to the walls for this on".

I wonder how effective this system really is when you are breaking the sound barrier, if it is safe to do.

Re:It is called engineering. (2, Insightful)

dbIII (701233) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524307)

Von Braun's body is a moulderin' in the ground and we aint got the Sat-five no more.

We can't get it back, we can only make a copy and find out the hard way what some of the bits that are undocumented for were really added for. On the other hand we can make a launch vehicle that living designers know backwards based on expertise that is not just limited to NASA and a couple of contractors, and we can repeatedly test the things to destruction like the motors in the Saturn V were. The problem is that it will take time and we need to be able to listen to experts instead of going for headlines. Chasing headlines IMHO is how we ended up with a NASA culture that was so malevolent that the only person untouchable enough to speak the truth was a dying Nobel prize winner. The Russians had major failures too but I think a lot of their success came from announcing things when they were done - in a lot of cases they had less time pressure than US missions (Sputnik was an exeption and had to be launched before the instruments were ready, but we didn't find that out until decades after a launch that was still a huge success).

Re:It is called engineering. (3, Interesting)

HappyEngineer (888000) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524313)

That can't be right. A 1/6 chance to fail is a 5/6 chance to succeed. Wikipedia indicates 11 manned launches. (5/6)^11=0.13

If 1/6 chance is correct then there was only a 0.13 chance that all those launches succeeded. I find it hard to believe that we were really that lucky. The chance of failure had to have been much lower.

Re:It is called engineering. (0, Offtopic)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524021)

I'd rather see then implement

Them.

I need to go to bed. Just one more link...

Re:It is called engineering. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524119)

Why is the parent modded funny? And why does parent want to see a rocket built that NASA rates as not worth the effort?

Re:It is called engineering. (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524203)

Why is the parent modded funny?

Maybe somebody thinks it is a Lost In Space joke.

Re:It is called engineering. (2, Informative)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524243)

Why is the parent modded funny?

I was probably modded funny because someone thought I was making a Jupiter > Saturn joke.

why does parent want to see a rocket built that NASA rates as not worth the effort

I suspect bias is the reason for their opinion. They have about as much incentive to seriously consider Jupiter as MS has to seriously consider *nix.

Re:It is called engineering. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524333)

Don't mess with Saturn. He'll cut off your nuts if you anger him. Ask Uranus.

Re:It is called engineering. (4, Informative)

OriginalArlen (726444) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524191)

The Saturn V is (was) built from what is now antiquated technology.

Except for the J2 second stage engine, of course, which is being reused on Ares [space.gs] (with some mods.)

Re:It is called engineering. (5, Interesting)

Aglassis (10161) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524057)

There are going to be setbacks. Mistakes will be made. For the most part these rocket surgeons do the job, on time.

Personally, I'd like to see them re-engineer the Saturn V. Didn't it run linux?

Why should we worry about setbacks? The Delta IV Heavy is launching just fine and could have easily done the job. All that they would have had to do would be the man-rating of the spacecraft and the redesign of the fairing. Additionally, the Delta IV Heavy has a lot of upgrade potential. Cross feeding propellant and adding additional strap-on boosters could easily double its capacity. And should I also mention that you can shut off the engines on the Delta IV if you have a problem (which might be convenient when you are transporting humans who don't like to explode when malfunctions occur).

You also have a conceptual error. The problem is with the Ares I, not the Ares V. The Ares I is a crappy 25 tonne rocket that is being built because it will provide pork to Utah. The Ares V, which also supplies pork to Utah, is the 130 tonne ultra heavy lift rocket that is in the same class as the Saturn V.

Re:It is called engineering. (2, Funny)

OriginalArlen (726444) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524165)

the ship could crash into its launch tower during liftoff"

Would that be bad, then?

Re:It is called engineering. (4, Funny)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524211)

There are going to be setbacks. Mistakes will be made. For the most part these rocket surgeons do the job, on time.

I think you mean brain scientists.

old tech better than the new? (1)

darth_phoenix (1363521) | more than 5 years ago | (#25523929)

how come the old technology didn't and the new can't? i wonder whether the conspiracy theory is true....

Sounds familar or what? (4, Insightful)

2Bits (167227) | more than 5 years ago | (#25523953)

Experts say its problems stem from changes to the original design. These modifications, such as changing the engines and making the solid rocket boosters longer, created unexpected problems, including excessive shaking and the launch drift.

Changing design too late in the game, not enough time to review what consequences those changes might create? Too many requirements squeezed into too tight a schedule?

Hmm, sounds familiar to us who are doing large software projects.

Re:Sounds familar or what? (5, Interesting)

im_thatoneguy (819432) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524145)

And like a large software project it also might be a lot of hoopla about day to day operations.

If someone posted an hourly press release for my internal work process at work it would also be full of failures. "Gavin wastes an hour on an idea which goes nowhere." "Gavin thinks he has found solution but actually finds more problems." "Gavin runs projections and determines his initial idea would result in a complete failure."

I would like to know whether the project is actually off track--or just working through the problems that are a result of doing something difficult. With any large project you spend most of your time screwing up. My favorite anecdote is from one of the editors of Apocalypse Now. They calculated the number of individual edits they made in the film and divided it by the number of days they were editing. If they had been able to work without any mistakes and just cut the film they would have only needed to cut two shots per day.

Re:Sounds familar or what? (2, Funny)

godfra (839112) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524891)

"Gavin writes a lengthy comment on Slashdot instead of documenting those processes as agreed last thursday."

secret symbol was a crescent (2)

Justabit (651314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25523955)

Chair vibrating too much? simple.. just look at your compass floating away, undo your straps and let your chair crunch into the ceiling while you float for the rest of the trip.

S.R. Hadden: First rule in government spending: why build one when you can have two at twice the price?

Re:secret symbol was a crescent (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524215)

Chair vibrating too much? simple.. just look at your compass floating away, undo your straps and let your chair crunch into the ceiling while you float for the rest of the trip.

Only works with ships designed by aliens.

DIlber law has taken over (3, Insightful)

what about (730877) | more than 5 years ago | (#25523957)

Looking around and seeing the tons of greedy and incompetent managers I have no doubt that Dilber law (it states that incompetent people will get promoted to managment) has taken over the old rule that managers where people that may have been lacking "social" skills but at least they knew what they where doing.

I have no problem to believe that suggestions and faults report of engineers where just ignored by some manager that decided that by doing so he will be in charge to build two projects (the faulty one and the possibly working one)

I suggest that we go back to the old school, managers must be taken from successful engineers that have worked on the field ! They may lack some "social" skill but at least they know what they are doing

Re:DIlber law has taken over (4, Informative)

JustOK (667959) | more than 5 years ago | (#25523989)

Dilber law (it states that incompetent people will get promoted to managment)

That's the Peter Principle.

Re:DIlber law has taken over (4, Insightful)

TapeCutter (624760) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524235)

"That's the Peter Principle."

Yes, I remeber reading my dad's copy in the early 70's, and it doesn't say that "incompetent people get promoted" it says people get promoted to their level of incompetence and then remain at that level.

BTW: The "zen" of the Peter Principle is to realize it applies to EVERYONE, including yourself. This is why the best project managers will happily admit they "don't know anything" when in reality they probably have 20+yrs experience on the floor.

Re:DIlber law has taken over (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524777)

GP is probably referring to Dilbert Principle [wikipedia.org] , which is much more ominous then Peter Principle. It states that in large organizations, if management has no immediate incentive to fire them, for whatever illogical, office politics reason, like maintaining a facade of department importance and business, most incompetent people are promoted to managerial positions to minimize their damaging impact on organization.

It implies that management is simpler or marginally important work. However, "Dilbert" is all about bad management hurting organizations' goals a lot, so it remains a bit contradictory... perhaps promotion of the worst is not a process commanded from above, but shaped by push from bellow: there are people looking for escape from positions they are not good at, and others who are good at their present positions usually won't compete with them for "higher" positions they deem ... unsatisfying.

Perhaps none should be allowed to change the ranks too fast? If someone shows signs of impatience and eagerness to take the helm, then perhaps there is something wrong going on in the spot they're presently at.

Peter Principle means: "Commanding positions are too important to be handed out just as rewards for simpler job well done". Dilbert principle means: "Commanding positions are too important to be handed out as decoys to lure elephants out of the china shop", but modified Dilbert Principle means: "Eagerness to rise from one's ranks is not a good reason for facilitation of it, but a good reason to do deep check on that person's performance at its present position".

Re:DIlber law has taken over (4, Insightful)

servognome (738846) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524007)

I have no problem to believe that suggestions and faults report of engineers where just ignored by some manager that decided that by doing so he will be in charge to build two projects (the faulty one and the possibly working one)

You know many technicians, mechanics, and repairmen have a similar complaint about engineers - really smart people who don't know a damn thing about physically working on something. The Dilbert-esque manager is a simplistic stereotype, when the problems are likely much more complicated.

Re:DIlber law has taken over (-1, Offtopic)

zxnos (813588) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524039)

YOU! out of the pool, NOW!

Re:DIlber law has taken over (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524225)

That's a variation of 'The Peter Principle', the idea that people rise to their level of incompetence and stop getting promoted. It's a very powerful law in the middle management world, and NASA has become very enmeshed in its results. It's not cleaqr that's what's going on here, but the Shuttle was amazingly burdened with the results of it.

We need to... (0, Insightful)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 5 years ago | (#25523969)

Man-rate a Delta vehicle and use that to lift our astronauts, and we need to purchase Soyuz spacecraft from Russia. Luckily, Congress has recently authorized the latter.

We also need to do something like what Von Braun did - inflate the specs by 20% and build the rocket for that target instead of what the payload engineers say they need. The payload is going to weigh a lot more than what they think, even if they don't know it yet.

Re:We need to... (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524255)

Man-rate a Delta vehicle and use that to lift our astronauts, and we need to purchase Soyuz spacecraft from Russia. Luckily, Congress has recently authorized the latter.

We also need to do something like what Von Braun did - inflate the specs by 20% and build the rocket for that target instead of what the payload engineers say they need. The payload is going to weigh a lot more than what they think, even if they don't know it yet.

Better to design for a Falcon 9 [wikipedia.org]

Come on, guys! (4, Funny)

iocat (572367) | more than 5 years ago | (#25523983)

Common guys, this isn't rocket science!

Re:Come on, guys! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25523997)

*waits patiently for the sarcasm- and humor-impaired idiot to point out that it is, in fact, rocket science*

What're the alternatives? (3, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 5 years ago | (#25523993)

Please, this is not a troll.

So what are the alternatives? I understand that not only is the shuttle getting very old (and presumably less safe with already a 1:100 chance of failure per launch) but is extremely expensive in terms of dollars/lb. to orbit.

Are there any reasonable alternatives that are available in say, 5 years? Such as using a man-rated Delta (very reliable commercial launcher) for the relatively small Orion crew capsule and perhaps some sort of Shuttle tank + Shuttle engines + 2 current boosters as a heavy lift vehicle? Or will the U.S. be without manned space flight capabilities in a few years (ceding it to the Russians and Chinese!).

Any NASA/ex-NASA/space experts out there? (By the way, really disappointed that the SSTO efforts like the Delta Clipper and X-34(?) didn't work out. Also, no, the Japanese space elevator will not be available for at least 20 years and probably not within our lifetimes).

Re:What're the alternatives? (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524023)

The reason why all these anti-Ares stories are in the news is because some bozos suggested that an alternative stack could be made from existing shuttle hardware. Some no-so bozos then fleshed out the details and proposed it as a serious contender. This is attractive to some people because a lot of jobs are involved with making the current shuttle hardware and if you can reuse it all then maybe some people will keep those jobs.

Whether it is false economy or not, I don't know, but it's clearly political.. as is everything NASA does..

Re:What're the alternatives? (5, Informative)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524077)

Alternatives? Well, there is one huge one for starters:

http://www.directlauncher.com/ [directlauncher.com]

The DIRECT launcher is one that has been worked on by a number of years by some of the very same engineers who are working on the Ares vehicle. In fact, it meets the requirements of re-using existing shuttle components much better than the Ares, and doesn't even modify the SRBs (the solid rocket boosters) at all. Those are treated as commodities and used nearly in an identical fashion as they have been used on the Shuttle.

Another alternative: Falcon 9 Heavy [spacex.com] This is being deliberately built with the goal in mind to become man-rated eventually, and will be making trips to the ISS on unmanned resupply missions. The first flight of this rocket (not the heavy variant but at least the Falcon 9) is going to be later on this year. The manned version will be using a completely new spacecraft as well, which SpaceX is calling the Dragon.

You also have suggestions of using a man-rated Delta IV-Heavy rocket that certainly has the firepower necessary for launching a manned vehicle, and one unusual suggestion was to use a Falcon 1 as the 2nd stage on top of an Atlas booster.

There are also dozens of projects that NASA has worked on since the Space Shuttle was originally laid down that you really just need to dig on both the official NASA website and onto space-related websites (or even "encyclopedia" websites) to find these plans. In spite of some actual hardware being built and billions of dollars into these programs, there is a huge graveyard of earlier attempts to build a successor to the Space Shuttle. Ares is just the latest example, unfortunately.

Will government manned spaceflight capabilities end in the next couple of years? Yeah, I think it will. This is something akin to the U.S. Navy being unable to send a ship out to sea because the ships fall apart before they can clear the harbor.

Private manned spaceflight in the USA looks considerably more promising, with about a dozen companies all at various stages of development that are all chomping at the bit to get a piece of the action. In other words, CNN and the rest of the news media will be on hand in space to greet future NASA astronauts in a congratulatory party when NASA actually gets it act together.

BTW, I've also suggested that CNN is going to cover the first NASA landings on Mars with their own camera crews that got there through other means. The more I read about things like Ares, the more I'm convinced this will really happen.

In some ways, I'm glad that NASA is throwing its surplus money into Ares even though it is a huge black hole sucking up any money you can throw at it. At the very least when these private spacecraft go on line, congress might just force NASA into buying tickets side by side with tourists. What an accomplishment from the agency that supposedly is on the leading edge of spacecraft development.

Re:What're the alternatives? (3, Insightful)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524127)

Another alternative: Falcon 9 Heavy [spacex.com] This is being deliberately built with the goal in mind to become man-rated eventually, and will be making trips to the ISS on unmanned resupply missions. The first flight of this rocket (not the heavy variant but at least the Falcon 9) is going to be later on this year. The manned version will be using a completely new spacecraft as well, which SpaceX is calling the Dragon.

But will it get us to the moon? That is the whole point of Ares.

Re:What're the alternatives? (4, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524247)

But will it get us to the moon? That is the whole point of Ares.

That isn't the whole point of the Ares. One of its first (early) missions is simply resupply to the ISS. Furthermore, you could build a spacecraft from Dragon + BA330 (Bigelow Aerospace) that would at least get you to circumlunar orbit, and in style. I'm sure Armadillo Aerospace wouldn't mind a contract for a lander :)

Once you get up to low-earth orbit, the possibilities open up tremendously. Besides, even NASA isn't planning on the full disintegrating stack like the Apollo spacecraft for lunar travel any more. And yes, I'm advocating the earth-orbit rendezvous plans that were proposed back in the early days of Apollo.

So yeah, I think something could be worked out to get us back to the Moon on the Dragon spaceship. Not by itself, but for a couple billion dollars that NASA plans on spending for each lunar mission, there are many ways to get it accomplished for a price far cheaper than what the Ares architecture will allow for.

Re:What're the alternatives? (1)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524489)

BA330 is a space station module. How is that supposed to get anyone to the moon? Dragon is little more than a concept, so why do you think it will be cheaper and better than Orion?

Re:What're the alternatives? (1)

hcdejong (561314) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524709)

On its own, no. But then again, neither would Ares.
Using Falcon 9 might solve one of the (apparently) large hurdles in the project, i.e. getting a heavy-lift man-rated launcher up and running.

Re:What're the alternatives? (1)

fotoguzzi (230256) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524665)

DIRECT sounds easy until someone actually bolts some engines to the bottom of the External Tank and sets a payload or second stage on top of the tank. I wonder if the complications that arise when DIRECT is at a comparable planning stage to Ares will seem any less daunting.

Re:What're the alternatives? (2, Interesting)

marco.antonio.costa (937534) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524093)

SpaceX is going to launch their midrange launch vehicle later this year. They project to have their heavy LV available in 2010.

So I suppose in five years it is quite likely they'll be selling it, even if they miss the 2010 date by disasters and setbacks which are normal in the unforgiving field of rocketry.

I'm a confessed fanboi, so I hope they succeed. :)

Re:What're the alternatives? (2, Informative)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524205)

Just to be clear (for both you and another poster) from what I've been told the Q4 2008 date on the website indicates that the vehicle will be delivered to the cape by then, not necessarily a launch.

However, they should be running the full mission duty cycle engine test on the F9 in McGregor soon... should be exciting, hopefully its on a weekend so I can head up there.

Re:What're the alternatives? (1)

marco.antonio.costa (937534) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524233)

Really? On the website it says 'Falcon 9 maiden flight Q4 2008'.

Lucky, lucky on you being able to go and watch. I'm unfortunately some thousands of miles southward. :)

It is worse than this article states, which is bad (4, Interesting)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25523995)

An even more bleak picture comes from this blog/editorial:

http://rocketsandsuch.blogspot.com/2008/10/getting-specific.html [blogspot.com]

It seems as though NASA hasn't learned about what went wrong with the development of the Space Shuttle and are bound and determined to repeat those mistakes of the past and make new ones on top of that. This is a rocket being designed by committee, with some of the top management folks who don't want to compromise on the basic premise: to "reuse" as many of the Shuttle parts as possible.

I hate to break the word to anybody still ignorant on this, but so little is being re-used from the Shuttle design that they might as well have gone back to the Saturn V design instead, or even made something completely from a blank piece of paper and rebuilt the supply chains from scratch.

There are also so many engineers who are working for NASA that are complaining about this design that at the very least somebody in political leadership (aka congressmen & senators) ought to be starting to listen to the grumblings going on here. The lines of communication between Griffin and the engineers doing the actual number crunching and the basic design of this vehicle are completely broken.

Of course, NASA has a wonderful [wikipedia.org] reputation for listenting to its engineers [wikipedia.org] that you can put full confidence in the NASA administration being able to listen to what needs to be fixed.

Re:It is worse than this article states, which is (4, Informative)

wvmarle (1070040) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524105)

If what is stated in the summary is true, then I think I've simply have to give up any trust in the prowess of NASA.

What happened to this organisation that managed to put people on the moon, that managed to build a huge telescope in orbit around the earth, that even built a permanently manned space station? How is it possible they can't even design a rocket to take us to the moon?

It is for sure not an easy task - but with the immense expertise that should be present within NASA, and commercial rocket launches now being commonplace, I'd say even geostationary orbit is an off-the-shelf technology, and I don't believe the step from there to the moon is that big, technically speaking.

Not having enough power to lift off in the first place, come on! Someone didn't read the design specs, or were they not written down properly? It is really the most mundane if not stupid problem I can imagine when designing a moon rocket system.

The other two mentioned problems (liftoff drift and the shaking) seem to me more like scaling issues, that presumably can be solved. Nasty ones I bet when you find them out, but the fact that they are found on the drawing board already means they're known issues. Then why making so much fuss about it! I bet they have had to deal with many more design issues that they found out only when modeling their new upgraded rocket.

Re:It is worse than this article states, which is (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524547)

I'd hate to rain on your parade, but I think you're underestimating how much the specific people involved were crucial to sending people to the moon vs the "organisation". It's not unknown in more earth-bound areas either, for such a timeframe(30+ years) to have a name attached, but noone involved in "the goods" left around. Just because they call it the same doesn't mean it's the same.

What the fuck is wrong with this country? (0, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524001)

This is the generation that the 60s idiots raised. I hope you are happy, flower children. You raised the first generation of the downfall of the United States. I only wish there was a hell for you to burn in.

Re:What the fuck is wrong with this country? (1)

Hal_Porter (817932) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524237)

They'll just rant angrily about how the US was never really ahead in the space race, the moon landings were hyped up to cover up a genocidal war in Vietnam and in any case the Soviet Union was far ahead in the peaceful use of space and so on.

And then someone will prod them with an AK47 for speaking English instead of Chinese or Arabic and they will get back to work.

US vs. China (2, Interesting)

theolein (316044) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524015)

As the Chinese already have a working man-rated launch vehicle, I suspect that the US will have to make the Areas work no matter what, or else you'll be seeing the Chinese on the moon first (and at this rate even the Russians and the Europeans too, since the Europeans are currently looking at man-rating the Ariane and launching astronauts with a modified ATV).

There, my contribution to the Slashdot US vs. the rest of the world slanging match.

Re:US vs. China (3, Informative)

Tubal-Cain (1289912) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524143)

..or else you'll be seeing the Chinese on the moon first...

Ahem [wikipedia.org]

Yes I think people forget (4, Interesting)

Sycraft-fu (314770) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524403)

That part of the problem is that the US had a very successful manned space program with many firsts (including the moon landing). In fact the US continues to have a very successful unmanned space program. The recent Mars missions, the rovers and the Phoenix Mars mission, have been very successful.

Well those two things help lead to being lazy about future manned space missions. After all that's not the competitive "We've got to do it first," thing going on. Then there's the fact that the unmanned missions are much, much cheaper and seem to produce plenty good data.

You have to remember that sending people in to space has thus far not been all that necessary, nor is there a real economic reason (beyond tourism). If it was a case that there was a lot of money to be made, like say you sent someone to the moon and they brought back billions of dollars of valuable resources, well then sure, there'd be plenty of motivation to keep a modern manned mission going. However as it stands, there's no economic benefit. So the benefit is entirely scientific. Well, that's sure as hell not worthless, but unmanned missions seem to do the job brilliantly.

I mean suppose you are running the program and I come to you and say I have some research I want to do. I can do it two ways: I can either design and build an automated system, which has a chance of failing, or I can send people, who based on past experience have about a 1% chance of dying (that's roughly NASA's record at this point, about 1 in 100). Also, the automated system is much cheaper to do, and can potentially work for longer, though perhaps not quite as flexible.

Which do you choose?

I'm certainly not against NASA modernizing it's manned space program I think it's worthwhile. But let's maintain a realistic assessment of how useful it is and how priority it is. The US has already sent people to the moon, a number of times in fact. Doing it just for bragging rights isn't useful at this point.

Re:Yes I think people forget (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524713)

The purpose of the manned space program is PR - and I don't mean the "national prestige" stuff of yesteryear. What I mean is that the American tax payer doesn't really wanna fork a whole lot of money to such basic research as space probes. After all, they already pay into a national science foundation, why can't space science get it's funding out of that? NASA is a separate agency because science isn't the goal.. it's a means to an end. What's the end? "Space". It's the lofty concept of where we're going and who we are. It's leadership of the human race.. and Americans like to feel they are blazing the trail. It's not about national prestige, it's about national purpose.

There's been exactly one other thing that has been as popular in the mainstream consciousness as manned space flight.. and no, it's not those little rovers on Mars, although they come close.. it's this whole exoplanet business. If the planet hunters can find earth-like planets, or even just promise to, that could be sufficiently interesting to joe-six-pack to get a whole chunk of the NASA budget, and even a few increases. But they've gotta pitch it as "exploration", not "science".

Re:US vs. China (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524419)

Ahem [wikipedia.org]

Re:US vs. China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524443)

Oh yes, lets reminisce about the glorious achievements of the past. That'll show them who's boss....

Re:US vs. China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524167)

Well the US has already been to the moon six times accomplished by the Apollo program.
China may be second to the moon...or third...or fourth...maybe fifth or sixth depending if the EU, Russia, India, or Japan get their manned space programs together and successfully conduct moon landings before China does.

Re:US vs. China (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524285)

Wait a minute, why should Americans be bothered that China becomes the second country to send men to the moon?

Re:US vs. China (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524541)

Well thankfully 'Slashdot US?' has already gone to the moon.

AND, there is the fact ... (5, Interesting)

Jane Q. Public (1010737) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524017)

... that engineers at NASA have formed a group to develop an alternative to "Ares", because of the perception that it was too little for too much effort. And the fact that NASA has so far rejected their plan without having looked at it seriously.

I have been saying this for years now: NASA has been dropping the ball when it comes to man in space. It has been doing great with robotics, but otherwise has been dropping the ball.

You want to see another man on the moon from the United States? Make it a $10 Billion dollar prize. NASA blows that (or pretty close) on a single Shuttle launch. I bet private industry would do it in under 10 years.

NASA has been losing it, big time. Can they make a comeback? I would be the happiest person if they did. But I have my doubts.

Re:AND, there is the fact ... (5, Insightful)

lysergic.acid (845423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524287)

well they're already trying that concept with the Lunar Lander challenge.

but space research has already been commercialized. all of NASA's technology is developed by private contractors. that's why it costs so much to build and launch the shuttle. on top of the actual development costs (materials, salaries for engineer/scientist/researchers, etc.) a large portion of their budget spending is needed to feed commercial profits--companies like Northrup Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, etc. as well as smaller private contractors that also need to make a profit on each contracted component.

cut out the CEO salaries, corporate profits, and replace business politics with a scientific meritocracy, then you'll see a much more efficient space agency. a lot of other national space agencies seem to be able to do more with less (as with NASA in the past), so there's no inherent problem with public space research.

i don't have anything against the commercialization of space per se. if private corporations want to invest in cutting-edge technology like space travel, they should do it. but the commercial sector prefers to wait for the pure research to be done by someone else and then come in only after the technology is stable enough to develop commercial applications that they can profit from.

so it's usually up to the government to fund pure research. and that works great when it's truly public research. but when you mix public research with commercial industries, that's when you get the problem we're faced with today, where the government is basically subsidizing a commercial space industry that has gradually replaced public space research. and this just shouldn't be happening. if private corporations want to commercialize space, they can do it on their own dime.

besides, no one is stopping commercial industries from doing space research. just look at Virgin Galactic and Space X. national space programs has pioneered space technology and done much of the hard work for private industries. we shouldn't have to pay private corporations to commercialize space. commercial research doesn't benefit the public. it's like subsidizing the telecom industry and then letting the private telecoms charge us to use the infrastructure we paid for in the first place.

Project Orion is the best solution (4, Interesting)

PitViper401 (619163) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524019)

Despite what people will say about the environmental side-effects, I still feel that Project Orion [wikipedia.org] is the best possible way for us to get back to space fast, and actually travel useful distances with a live crew.

Re:Project Orion is the best solution (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524275)

Despite what people will say about the environmental side-effects, I still feel that Project Orion [wikipedia.org] is the best possible way for us to get back to space fast, and actually travel useful distances with a live crew.

Well I am glad we are launching "old bang bang" from your country...

Re:Project Orion is the best solution (0, Flamebait)

KlausBreuer (105581) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524605)

Yes, brilliant idea. Let's build a huge half-sphere shield, nice and thick, and detonate a series of nuclear bombs underneath it.
The advantage: yes, it can carry a VERY heavy load into orbit.
The disadvantage: oh, I have to tell you?
Perhaps I should say that Palin would like this concept and simply leave it at that.

Shuttle II (5, Insightful)

Melee_Fracas (1092093) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524031)

I remember, as a kid, being very excited about reports that the reusable 'Space Shuttle' was going to be like a 'space pickup truck' and reduce launch costs to $50/lb. It was still expensive, but I remember calculating the price for a kid my size. ($4500. Wow!) Then the cost went up to $100/lb. Not great, but still cheaper than what we had. Then $500/lb. Tolerable, I guess. Then they quit talking about it at all.

NASA has done a lot of amazing things in the last 30 years, no doubt. But their manned program is a complete fuck-story. Just once, I'd like to see senior NASA management acknowledge a problem in the manned program, own up to causing it, and taking the action necessary to fix it. I like it that they've split cargo and humans (after 30 years of agonizingly expensive lessons that have greatly diminished American space capability) and are going back to mostly disposable systems (again, after 30 years of expensive lessons). But, why--Oh, why!?--can't they get this right?

It looks like they're going to drive this thing into the ground, just like the shuttle. The public secret is that the NASA manned program shows all the signs of a dysfunctional organization, and has for 30 years. The next president, senate, and congress need to seriously look at scrapping NASA's manned program and building a new one from scratch, possibly outside of the auspices of NASA. For the good of the country and of humankind, I hope that they do.

Re:Shuttle II (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524433)

I remember, as a kid, being very excited about reports that the reusable 'Space Shuttle' was going to be like a 'space pickup truck' and reduce launch costs to $50/lb. It was still expensive, but I remember calculating the price for a kid my size. ($4500. Wow!) Then the cost went up to $100/lb. Not great, but still cheaper than what we had. Then $500/lb. Tolerable, I guess. Then they quit talking about it at all.

It's I think around $10k/lb now, more I guess if you add the downtime/costs due to the last shuttle disaster (it's something like half a billion a year even if no shuttle flies). Granted that'd make it "only" $3.5k or so in 1980 dollars. It'd have only been $1k/lb in current dollars if something absurd like 52 shuttle flights a year happened (isn't government fudging fun?). I think some non-human rated rockets are getting it down to around $2k/lb now although I haven't looked into it that much.

Re:Shuttle II (1)

subreality (157447) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524681)

The next president, senate, and congress need to seriously look at scrapping NASA's manned program and building a new one from scratch, possibly outside of the auspices of NASA.

The way I see it, we already are: Check out SpaceX and the other private space programs.

Remake Apollo (1)

compro01 (777531) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524065)

Maybe they should just remake the gear from Apollo. We know it worked (cue the conspiracy theorists) and we could definitely do quite a lot of stuff with it, given advancements in technology in the past 40 years. Just compare the monstrosity that was the Apollo guidance computer (thousands of RTL NOR ICs, magnetic core memory) to something modern to do the same thing (Hell, my pocket calculator could likely provide much of the functionality if you rad-hardened it.) and you can save a ton (probably literally) of weight for other stuff.

Re:Remake Apollo (3, Informative)

davmoo (63521) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524263)

The problem is, believe it or not, some bright genius (or group of them) at NASA decided that, once upon a time, a large quantity of the documentation for Apollo was not worth saving. Documentation for many assemblies has been lost, as have many of the men and women who built them.

Re:Remake Apollo (3, Insightful)

Teancum (67324) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524303)

While I would have to agree that it was a huge mistake to abandon the Saturn family of rockets in the 1970's, any attempt to revive the project would simply be starting all over again with a whole new rocket design.

More importantly, all of the talent that went into building the Saturn V, including much of the undocumented "fixes" and the folks who were on the line actually putting the thing together have long since retired or simply died. Also, none of the suppliers for the Saturn V even exist.

Heck, I'm not even sure you could find the manufacturing capabilities for many of the Saturn V components in America any more. Most of that capability has been shipped overseas to places like China, India, and Taiwan. And you wonder why those countries are getting rockets of their own going?

Success over progress? (2, Insightful)

Bo'Bob'O (95398) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524071)

How have our standards of failure become so high that we freak out because there could be flaws in simulations? This is the POINT of these projects, to push ourselves forward

Nobody wants to have to scrap their work to fix a problem, but it's going to happen. If it's not, we're not pushing ourselves hard enough. Probes are going to crash, projects are going to overrun, people are going to make mistakes. If we keep at it, however, thats when we reap the rewards.

No doubt we need to eliminate needless risk and move what other risks we can away from the loss of life and property, but lets not confuse that with eliminating any risk at all. To remove all risk is to end all progress and change.

Why is this so hard? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524085)

Correct me if I'm wrong, but we had a series of really nice, multi-stage rockets... what, forty years ago? Just off the top of my head, we had... Vanguard, Atlas, Saturn, Delta, Titan.. And they all worked pretty well.

We seem to have made them in the "dark ages" of technology, too, relatively speaking.

What's the problem now? Are our engineers less smart? Do we have fewer materials? Are we under a budget that's too strict? There has to be something that's keeping us from being able to do this. I mean, we made a fricking space plane twenty years ago to build up public opinion and convince people that we were on the edge of the future -- now we can't go back and make a rocket?

I mean, at worst, what's keeping us from looking at, say, the Saturn design and updating it with modern technologies, materials, and safety measures?

I feel like I'm missing something here.

Re:Why is this so hard? (1, Offtopic)

srothroc (733160) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524095)

Also, what? I didn't check "Post Anonymously" and I /am/ logged in. Yet it posted as Anonymous Coward? Sigh.

Re:Why is this so hard? (0, Offtopic)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524293)

It is possible to tab into the Post Anonymously component and fire it with the return key. In some browsers anyway.

Re:Why is this so hard? (2, Insightful)

damburger (981828) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524335)

You're wrong.

The rockets you mention had a hell of a time getting to work properly. Stuff that makes the problems with Ares look tame. In the 50s all the US could do was make big explosions, before they got the hang of systems management.

They want to be smart. KISS, remember it. (2, Interesting)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524337)

It might seem unrelated but this "management project" might be easier to experience for most of us. Lord of the Rings Online PvMP. Tactics.

Two sides, uneven numbers and uneven skills. Battles tend to be tank rusk vs tank rush, or zerg vs zerg. Hit the other with all you got and see if you can wipe them out. It is the nature of the game. In the battle area there are keeps to take. First thing a SMART leader who understands KISS does is ask himself. Do I really want to add complexity to the battle by giving myself TWO goals, fighting the enemy AND taking a keep at the same time? Note that taking a keep itself already has two tasks at least, killing NPC's and stopping others on your side "accidently" pulling every NPC in the area.

KISS means, Keep It Simple Stupid. The more complex you make a task, the more trouble you create for yourself. The human brains ain't all that good at dealing with a lot of tasks so it tends to just ignore things it can't handle if overloaded. Overlooking the basics by focussing on to many complex demands at once.

In Lotro PvMP one of the basics is "you need numbers". A complex task is to try stategies like creating a diversion, flanking etc etc. Everyone who thinks they know about war might think these are valid tactics but forget one thing. KISS. Even an attempt at flanking the enemy is FAR to complex to pull off. Sure, it might work once, if you got people who REALLY work together, but 9 times out of 10 it just ends up with the enemy just wiping one part first, then the second. PvMP is Lotro is about numbers vs numbers, so stick together and hit them in force. It works, has been proven to work and is something most people can deal with. Split for instance into two groups and you waste ten minutes getting everyone to follow the right leader, while the enemy looks on and thinks "Yummie, bite sized enemy forces".

So how does this relate to the US space program? The mandate to re-use space shuttle parts. Totally unneeded complexity. Re-using existing stuff SOUNDS smart but goes against KISS because it forces you to work around ALL the problems the existing parts bring. It is in this case BLOODY clear the existing parts have troubles because if they didn't, you would be using the old system.

If you want a rocket to take you to the moon with a manned module then THAT is the design requirement. Nothing more. Rocket+manned+moon. Not +cheap. Not +beforedateX. Not +reuseparts. Not +somebodiespetproject. Everything requirement you add makes things far more complex and that is BOUND to go wrong.

People in software are of course familiar with the idea of re-usability. Re-use your code. C++ was build around the idea. The idea has its meritcs. I certainly wouldn't recommend that the next moon rocket seeks to re-invent the screw BUT there is a HUGE difference between using existing parts if it happens to be convenient and putting re-using parts as a design requirement.

Think of it like this. Using GD in your website software vs GD must be used in your website software. Using OS/2 for your desktop vs your desktop MUST use OS/2.

As a software engineer you probably seen this countless time. Software requiring the use of Oracle database to store 1 column because we use oracle in this company. Demands to have servers run windows because that is what the boss has on his desktop.

Ares has to many design requirements that have nothing to do with getting the US back on the moon and that is the reason it failed. If they had gone for a new design, re-using only if it happened naturally, then they would already have had a rocket, it would have been cheaper and it might even have been flying already. But no, it had to re-use by design to be cheaper and faster and voila, as everyone could predict, it is more expansive and slower. re-use as part of the design spec != KISS. If someone mentions re-use of code as a goal during development I have long since learned to get the hell out of the project. I suggest NASA hires me so that I can stand by with a clue-bat during their brainstorming sessions and whack anyone adding needless complexity to their projects. Seeing how much money it wastes, I would say 10 million a year would be nice starting salary. Where do I apply?

Re:They want to be smart. KISS, remember it. (3, Insightful)

justinlee37 (993373) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524551)

In Lotro PvMP one of the basics is "you need numbers". A complex task is to try stategies like creating a diversion, flanking etc etc. Everyone who thinks they know about war might think these are valid tactics but forget one thing. KISS. Even an attempt at flanking the enemy is FAR to complex to pull off.

It might be "FAR too complex" in your videogame, but people fighting an actual war realize the value of flanking.

Flanking is valuable because of KISS - when the enemy has to cover his 12 and his 6 at the same time, vs. two of your units that only have to cover their 12, he covers both less adeptly than he would cover one. It's a win for you.

Re:They want to be smart. KISS, remember it. (1)

killmofasta (460565) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524647)

Mod Parent +1

( I never knew how this works, but PLEASE WORK NOW!)

Process compliance with dumb processes (1)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524385)

What's the problem now? Are our engineers less smart? Do we have fewer materials? Are we under a budget that's too strict? There has to be something that's keeping us from being able to do this.

Well, we've got all these neat new development processes and guidelines to ensure that our development activities comply fully with the imposed development processes, whether they are sensible or not. In other words, we have process compliance at the expense of results, and many of the processes are complete pigs which are often inflexible (think of Six Sigma, for instance). The main problem in recent decades has been the succession of Fad-of-the-year dogmas excreted by business schools and accumulating in R&D departments.

Re:Why is this so hard? (1, Interesting)

killmofasta (460565) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524393)

Dont forget, We still have Saturn. There are still two Saturn rockets in Kennedy Florida, that we can still use.

Saturn was extrodinarly sucessfull. It's existing saftey measures are fine. What is Missing? Manpower. We now lack the training and science in people to be able to run the program.

Re:Why is this so hard? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524473)

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but we had a series of really nice, multi-stage rockets... what, forty years ago? Just off the top of my head, we had... Vanguard, Atlas, Saturn, Delta, Titan.. And they all worked pretty well.

We seem to have made them in the "dark ages" of technology, too, relatively speaking.

What's the problem now? Are our engineers less smart? Do we have fewer materials? "

Why will nobody say the obvious? WE didn't build Saturn. The Germans did.

While we had German engineers, we were pretty hot in the Space Race. So the obvious answer is, get the Germans to make another one. If we can afford it.

Or we could ask the Brits. Last I heard they were building a 1000mph car, and we havn't been able to do that sort of thing for 30 years. In fact, since the Germans left.....

Re:Why is this so hard? (1)

S-100 (1295224) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524703)

It is harder now than it was then. In relative terms, the money is fairly scarce. The Aries project is not a source of national pride and the cold-war competition is no longer there to any great degree. Back in Mercury/Gemini/Apollo, the best minds available in the west were working on all phases of the problem. Now, the best minds are scattered throughout the aerospace industry, as well as a number of private sector rocket programs. Back in the space race era, there simply wasn't time for huge bureaucracies. It may have seemed big to them at the time, but it was nothing compared to the NASA of today. Aries 1 is a technical embarrassment from the outset. Take a 40-year-old Apollo capsule, make it a little bigger, and paste it on top of a Shuttle SRB. It even looks ridiculous. I could go on, but it really pisses me off.

Use existing Designs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524147)

The Saturn 5 rocket design is design tested and known to work. It might be wise to update some of the hardware yes, however the configuration is known to be good. Should stick with known working designs. If it aint broke dont fix it

Hmmm (1)

Puffy Director Pants (1242492) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524185)

Why can't we just beam them into orbit? Seriously, do we not have working teleporters yet?

Big waste of money (0, Offtopic)

zmollusc (763634) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524325)

Why are they dicking around with rockets? What does rocket technology have to do with cloning?

Re:Big waste of money (1)

deniable (76198) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524457)

Cloning? You think IP law is bad now. Try cloning a super-model.

NASA a classic dysfunctional bureaucracy (4, Insightful)

level4 (1002199) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524375)

To my admittedly outsider's eye, NASA looks and acts exactly like your classic dysfunctional monopoly bureaucracy. These things are common and seem unavoidable - everything that I've read about the Ares debacle is right in line with a sclerotic, mismanaged, change-averse (and risk-averse .. just not the right type of risk) fiefdom-addled government clusterfuck we see time and time again. Hell, not just government - occasionally we see this in the private sector too, when a trenchant monopoly manages to establish itself somewhere and then proceeds to lose sight of everything that got it there in the first place and rots from within. Microsoft of 5 years ago, by all accounts, got pretty close to that, but there are many others, especially in defense.

What kills this is competition, genuine competition, that forces the organisation to adapt or perish. Nothing other than imminent risk of complete death will force such organisations to subject themselves to the kind of creative destruction needed to re-invent themselves.

I personally believe that NASA in its present form is lost, but forms can change. The key element is the competition now arising from other countries' space agencies. NASA no longer has a monopoly; it will not take long before the results from other agencies - done better, faster, cheaper - will force radical change at NASA.

It's not the 1960s again yet, but when China and India announce dates for their moon landings, you can bet the clock will start spinning backwards within days.

I've said it before, I'll say it again. I love America, but it desperately needs competition. The same could go for NASA. Well, it'll get it soon enough.

Funny how NASA - and America in general - needs foreigners to keep itself in line. Back in the day it was Von Braun. Now it's Hu Jintao who will provide the electric shock necessary to revive this intransigent patient.

America isn't a country, it's a team. It needs to fight, it needs to compete, it needs constant challenge. If there's no "enemy", it gets lazy and tears itself apart. Just like every other empire in history. I use that word without any perjorative intention, by the way - there is simply no other way to describe a country with so many overseas military bases. Of course America is an empire, and there's nothing wrong with that.

But god, it needs competition. The good news is - competition is on the way. In space, and everywhere else, America now faces its first real competition in generations.

I for one am on the edge of my seat, waiting for the games to begin, and looking forward to what the "real america" - the one that competes, and wins - can come up with. USA!

FIRSFT (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524417)

[aEmazingkReskin.com]

wind the problem? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524491)

why can't they just wait until winds are well below 12 mph? The force exerted on a body by a moving fluid goes as v^2, so they wouldn't have to wait for it to drop all that far.

I wonder how much of this project... (1)

vsage3 (718267) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524533)

has involved reinventing the wheel? I know too many engineers that like to start from scratch and simply ignore tried and true existing ideas/code/technology/what have you.

Re:I wonder how much of this project... (1)

j_sp_r (656354) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524801)

Not invented here/by our team syndrome

Did not US already put a man on moon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524657)

This is kind of surprising. When US was able to put a man on moon some 30yrs back, what is the big deal in putting another on moon again?

who coulda guessed (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#25524737)

ANOTHER epic bush fail everything the guy touches is hmm hmm poo poo anyone suprised

Aww, come on guys (1)

Amiralul (1164423) | more than 5 years ago | (#25524795)

Computer simulations... in the mean time, an Indian rocket it's on the way to the Moon!
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