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Why Does the US Have a Civil Space Program?

timothy posted more than 5 years ago | from the why-indeed? dept.

NASA 308

BDew writes "The Presidents of the National Academy of Science and the National Academy of Engineering have commissioned a study on the Rationale and Goals of the US Civil Space Program. In short, the Academies are asking why the nation has a civil space program (including human, robotic, commercial, and personal spaceflight). The study is intended to provide a strategic framework for the nation's activities in space that can provide consistent guidance in an increasingly interconnected world. The members of the study committee are interested in the views (positive or negative) of the general public, particularly those people with a scientific and/or technological interest."

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Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned space (4, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364073)

And fund our research instead.

Re:Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned sp (5, Interesting)

ChipR (1424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364221)

And fund our research instead.

That would have been my first guess, given that there's a very vocal cadre who look for every opportunity to quash manned spaceflight, but TFA doesn't seem slanted in that direction. Could just be lip service, but I'm hoping it is what it says it is: A study to re-examine what we want to do, cross-index that with what we think we can do, and use that to create some concrete plans.

Then again, if the Obama administration turns NASA into the US Space Force, civil space pursuits at the national level may dry up entirely, leaving only military and private space efforts. Not sure I like the sound of that.

Re:Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned sp (4, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364495)

I agree that I don't like space to be militarized. However, if it is, that would be good overall for manned space flight. Nobody can get funding like the armed forces can, and they tend to push the envelope on things that normally wouldn't get looked at twice. Big waste of money? Yes. Possibly the best thing to promote manned space flight that could happen? Absolutely.

Re:Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned sp (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365167)

I agree that I don't like space to be militarized. However, if it is, that would be good overall for manned space flight. Nobody can get funding like the armed forces can, and they tend to push the envelope on things that normally wouldn't get looked at twice. Big waste of money? Yes. Possibly the best thing to promote manned space flight that could happen? Absolutely.

True dat. I don't think it's a question of whether space gets militarized, but when and by whom. I guess that, given that it's going to happen, I'd prefer we be competitive in that area. Space is, after all, the ultimate "high ground", and anybody who knows anything about tactics will tell you that controlling high ground is nearly always desirable.

Re:Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned sp (3, Insightful)

Retric (704075) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365175)

The military seems to have zero interest in maned space flight due to 4 issues.

1) Why send a person when you can send a bomb?
2) It's hard to do stealthy reentry.
3) How do you get people home once they are there?
4) It cost way to much to send enough people do do something meaningful vs flying someone in from a near by base.

Re:Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned sp (1)

DrWho520 (655973) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365401)

Those sound like very reasonable issues to me.

1) Why send a person when you can send a probe?
2) It's hard to do safe, inexpensive reentry.
3) How do you get people home once they are there?
4) It costs to much to send a large party vs flying a bunch of bots there or looking through a telescope.

Re:Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned sp (4, Insightful)

Atlantis-Rising (857278) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365297)

I don't think that military space flight necessarily means militarized space-flight, myself.

Re:Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned sp (4, Interesting)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365381)

What we really need is an alien race to show up, blow up a major city or two, leave us exact directions on how to get to their home planet and specs on what sort of weaponry they have, and then leave us alone for about 200 years. That's about the only way I can see the military getting into manned space travel in a big way.

Great idea (5, Funny)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365423)

That sounds like a fantastic idea for a book.

Re:Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned sp (0, Offtopic)

Mordok-DestroyerOfWo (1000167) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364245)

I call it the finglonger! But I'll need funding to get beyond the prototype phase.

Re:Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned sp (0, Offtopic)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364687)

And thats what life would have been like if I had invented the finglonger, one can always dream, one can always dream..

Re:Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned sp (1)

RavenofNi (948641) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364395)

An interesting statement when the research groups own "Statement of Task" includes:

"and ensuring the future progress of the U.S. civil space program"

Most of their objective list itself seems to imply (to me at least) they are for a civil space program, though I suppose it could be a masquerade for a desire to kill it and loot the corpse.

Re:Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned sp (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364525)

I worked at the National Academies for a year, and I've never seen such a disorganized, confused, and visionless organization in my life. There were no less than 5 IT departments managing their web site(s), none of which was answerable to the others, and no CIO or central IT management. We had a database driven web site with a crumbling database and I spent most of my year telling them it was critical we fix it before it died, they decided to put the effort into CSS and graphics instead. More relevant here... I had an executive director tell me, and I quote, "Our reports don't matter, what matters is that we have them." The Academies are in theory one organization, but in reality it's 4 divisions that operate like warring principalities, and what little theoretical high level unifying management there is mostly seems to be disinterested. Each of these principalities is run by an executive director, so one of them saying "we exist only to exist" is incredibly sad. The Academies were apparently once a prestigious academic institution, but it seems now they're just a floundering Beltway Bandit - except they aren't trying to make any money even, it's a nonprofit.

Re : scientists say, kill manned space (1)

MRe_nl (306212) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364635)

before aliens/search/destroy/mankind.

Re:Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned sp (2, Insightful)

Rick Bentley (988595) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364679)

No manned spaceflight means no warp-capable Starships, no green Orion slave women, no bare-knuckled fights on distant M-class planets, no time travel, no heart-warming self-sacrifice for the needs of the many...

Sendng an unmanned "V-ger" out is great and all of that, but we really want the Star Trek/Wars/etc fantasy and are loath to let it go.

Re:Let's rephrase : scientists say, kill manned sp (4, Insightful)

jdb2 (800046) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365351)

Such scientists would be poor representatives of Human Civilization and should reconsider their role in society. You see, at the core of Science ( from Latin "Scio"/"scire" -- "to know" ) lies the principle reason why Humans explore Nature : Our ingrained drive to map out the limits of our knowledge and push those limits back. As the late Arthur C. Clarke put it : "The only way to discover the limits of the possible is to go beyond them into the impossible." . If a society stagnates, and stops reaching beyond the possible -- stops exploring -- then searching History will show, time and time again, that such a society will inevitably collapse.

Given the above, and given the geological record's testament to the finite probability of life on this planet being periodically ( not completely ) destroyed, and given the new factor that Human Civilization may be responsible for its own destruction, one may logically deduce from the basic laws of probability that our chance of extinction is an ever increasing number, slowly but surely approaching 1, and that the following quote from the late Carl Sagan rings true, now more than ever : "All civilizations become either spacefaring or extinct."

jdb2

So we can go into space? (1)

jandrese (485) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364077)

Seems simple enough.

Re:So we can go into space? (3, Funny)

eclectro (227083) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364895)

Yes, but we can't breathe their. Also, their is no oxygen, water, food, nor farmland to grow anything, It would be hard to haul cows up to milk and/or eat. While the shuttle *might* have been able to haul cows up, the shuttle fleet will be retired shortly. They also need hay and water. You may say well, why don't we just send up an extra load of steaks, dried buttermilk and Tang? The problem with this is that you will run out again and can not replenish supplies without it costing ten billion USD a load. While I accept the fact the moon is made of cheese, it most likely is moldy and hence it's green tinge.

In the end, man should not go into space until the cows are ready to call space home.

Re:So we can go into space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365095)

*facepalm*

I feel dumber having read that.

Space program (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364097)

Cracks are visible on the exterior of a settled suburban house in a lower middle-class neighborhood outside of Detroit. During the day, the house is mostly quiet save the occasional noise of babies' cries competing with shrill, high-pitched female voices. At night, the music of a handful of artists known as the "Three T's" - Tupac Shakur, Too Short, and Trick Daddy - blares from the domicile with aging blue-gray paint and bars on all of its windows. It is impossible to see into the house from outside because all of the windows are covered with aluminum foil. One window was broken but promptly taped together with the duct tape in the distinctive tell-tale pattern of brownian motion.

The interior of the house is barren save the sparse arrangement of old, unmatched furniture purchased(or, more likely, stolen) from an inner-city thrift shop; the centerpiece of it all being the stained, chintzy sofa peppered with the burns of marijuana and tobacco cigarettes. The place as a whole appears to be only a temporary living space, yet its inhabitants have lived here consistently for about ten years. The stench of dirty diapers, burned cooking oil, and the by-products of a metabolism so powerful it could fuel the outrunning of gazelles or a successful fistfight against 4 police officers at once permeates the entire home.

It may be mentioned in passing that this house's inhabitants are an assortment of African men, women, and children who live and sleep in intervals diametrically opposite to those of each other so that each inhabitant's productivity is maximized -- everybody in the house has their own role in a setup strikingly similar to the Smurfs' villiage or some other Socialist paradise.

A circular design of red, yellow, and brown was painted on the wall -- "Krylon on drywall" being the medium -- by the teenage male who is but one part of the small collective known as the Ubuntu developers.

The adult males do the brunt of the work. One bedroom of the house, the master bedroom, is the development studio. The whole outfit is the brainchild of Marcus Ubuntu, first-generation African immigrant who studied computer science at the university of Zimbabwe before fleeing the armed rebellion. At his left sit Reggie Omoko, associate programmer; and at his right sit Shawn James, graphic designer(it should be noted here that Shawn is the one who designed and painted the Ubuntu logo, reportedly gleaning Ubuntu's artistic inspiration from the color scheme and the shape of various public toilets).

The 2 women of the house serve as breeders and foragers, collecting the welfare and child support money and then buying copious amounts of food, drink, and dope in support of operations. The children of the house, in turn, support the women, though it is difficult to determine how exactly many children are in the house as they come and go as they please with some leaving permanently, some returning days or even years later.

The primary tools of this trade are an assortment of cutting-edge but stolen laptop and desktop computers. The Ubuntu operating system is coded in object-oriented C, a language Marcus developed at university because he didn't know that somebody had already invented C++. Years of crack and malt liquor-fueled hard work have transformed Ubuntu from a meager startup into the world's most popular open-source operating system.

SpaceX (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364121)

It seems that private companies such as SpaceX are going to be the future rather then government funded such as NASA which has become counter productive the older it has gotten.

SpaceX Is A Miserable Failure (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364239)

Given the laughably poor record of accomplishing what has already been for the most part perfected back in the late 1950s / early 1960s with launch technology from the clowns at SpaceX...that would be bad.

But, hey, you're one of those morons who will cheer this turd of a company cuz, they're, like, 'teh private sektor'...

Here's a clue dumbfuck, NASA is and always has been nothing more than a means to control and direct private space technology companies. They've managed to be wildly successful by working with competent companies and not ones like morons at SpaceX.

Re:SpaceX Is A Miserable Failure (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364413)

If they're so successful why is SpaceX doing launches at 5 million when NASA's cost 50 million?

Problem is that NASA has lost focus and what they're doing now is the same thing as private companies are doing but they're doing it more expensive.

Re:SpaceX Is A Miserable Failure (1)

PeterBrett (780946) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364513)

You seem to have an axe to grind, sir. I beg leave to ask by whom you are employed?

Re:SpaceX (4, Interesting)

richdun (672214) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364307)

It seems that private companies such as SpaceX are going to be the future rather then government funded such as NASA which has become counter productive the older it has gotten.

I largely agree with the sentiment, but only as it regards focus. NASA has become counter-productive because it's doing the same thing now it was doing forty years ago, which never quite motivates people to be inventive or innovative - just structured and regulatory. NASA should be almost exclusively focused on things like deep space exploration, manned interplanetary travel, etc., which don't have an immediate commercial benefit. If we wait on a commercial reason for manned interplanetary travel (read: 4. Profit!!!), we'll probably never get out there (unless "out there" finds us first...). Like any other industry, let the private companies and universities handle all the near-Earth and aeronautical stuff since they can and will find a way to make a profit (and some already have) without the waste of government bureaucracy and Congressional oversight.

Re:SpaceX (4, Insightful)

manekineko2 (1052430) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364811)

Agreed. Blue sky activities such as research on manned space travel are inherently not susceptible to pure private enterprise. That's why I laud groups like SpaceX and initiatives like the X-Prize, which break things down into manageable chunks for private enterprise to tackle, while still keeping around the government in areas that private industry is weak (distant goals with extremely large but speculative payoffs).

The reason I say it's inherently not susceptible to pure private enterprise is because there is an extremely high upfront (and continuing) investment cost, coupled with a stupendously large but very distant payoff. I haven't seen any evidence that there will be significant payoff in manned space travel before we get to the point where our technology is ready for colonization, but once we reach that point how do you even measure the "profits" they're so large?

In a purely rational marketplace, this may not make a difference, as 1 trillion over the next 10 years in return for 500 trillion in 50 is a great deal (with nothing or virtually nothing before 50). However, in the real world, no private actor would ever touch that deal with a ten foot pole. The problems are numerous, such as the fact that humans have finite lifespans, and 50 years is generally too long a time frame to wait for a payoff for an investment. A related problem is how you get together 1 trillion dollars to start with, especially since you've limited the pool to only those with extremely long investment windows. Corporations can help with this, since their immortality, like the government's, gives them a longer view on things, but the need to make short term (or even medium term) profits due to the finite lifespan of human investors means it's pretty much unrealistic to expect a corporation that doesn't plan on turning a profit for 50 years. Now, I just made up these numbers, but in general, I just don't see how private enterprise without purely altruistic goals can expect to gather humongous amount of money X in order to invest for long time frame Y in order to make stupendous amount of money Z.

Furthermore, in the case of space travel, the gains would be immeasurably large, but would be paid over a very large time frame as well. What good is it finally reaching a feasible method of inter planetary travel if within 21 years when your patents expire, or likely even sooner, all your competitors can cheaply leach off your initial massive outlay and develop cheap copies of your space travel methods, possibly even surpassing you (i.e. Rio mp3 players vs. Apple iPods). Even a rational immortal actor in a perfect world wouldn't invest in that case, unless they seek solely to benefit society and mankind as a whole, like ideally the government would.

Re:SpaceX (2, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364535)

They will be a big part of pushing what we can do in space, but private companies can't/won't do it unless the government paves the way. The government's not just going to stop progressing in space because the baton's been passed, neither should it. Instead, it should be a situation where companies exploit where the government's always been and the government pushes the frontier.

Re:SpaceX (1)

Gerzel (240421) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364705)

Except private spaceflight is one of the MAJOR goals of US space research in the first place. We ultimately on the horizon want to go into space and that means private flights.

Now that we are starting to see private flights NASA's role starts to change from primary R&D to a management and control organization part of which I think should go into the Military and FAA.

Because this is America (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364185)

It's free enterprise.

Re:Because this is America (3, Insightful)

Genda (560240) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364403)

That's a little brief, but the idea is correct. The government space program will always function and exist at the whim and will of those holding the purse-strings, and those trying to balance purely scientific pursuits with simply commercial projects.

The government is simply the wrong vehicle for this project. Look at what we've accomplished since putting men on the moon... Oh yeah, robotic explorers, no complaint, the knowledge alone was worth the trip, but the future of people getting off our little rock has been virtually forgotten.

We need to come up with cost effective means to put robotic construction equipment on the moon. Build LARGE human habitats safe from radiation, meteor impact, and most typical problems folks on the moon might encounter, and build a human colony capable of supporting million (ultimately billions of people.) With a significant presence on the moon, we now have the capacity to build large vessels, in a small gravity well, capable of taking a lot of people to other places in the Solar System. Lots of human habitats means less chance of the species getting taken out by a rogue comet, or local gamma ray burster.

In the short run, we need to make lots of space business, make a lot of wealth from space, and make the opportunity for average people to leave the confines of Earth's atmosphere as common as a jet flight. We need industry in space. We need to begin using all the goodies available to us in our little slice of the solar system.

Re:Because this is America (5, Insightful)

carambola5 (456983) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365027)

As lead mechanical engineer who designed, built, and tested a lunar mining machine within the last year, I can assure you: we're working on it.

Let me just indicate that if NASA (or some other government entity) had not funded the project, the private space sector would have taken decades to begin considering funding it.

The civil space industry provides funding and support for state-of-the-art space technologies, while the private space industry - with their ROI requirements - follows behind. There is nothing wrong with this protocol. If you'd like to see more private space industry, fund NASA so that companies can justify spending money on more mature technologies.

Re:Because this is America (2)

Yez70 (924200) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365365)

I'd suggest NASA get started on an 'effective' PR department then, because if everyone doesn't know what you have planned in more detail - nobody is going to continue to support your efforts.

We need a national science and engineering agenda (5, Insightful)

Swift2001 (874553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364199)

That's why I'm very leery of scaling back NASA. The moon shot was propaganda, partially, but it also unleashed a ton of new technologies and trained a generation of engineers. Of course, we could go along with the privatizing globalists, but you see how well that's working?

We may or may not find a role for men in space this generation, but space travel and investigation is absolutely fundamental for our survival as a species. And no corporation will EVER do what needs to be done, because it's not profitable except indirectly.

Re:We need a national science and engineering agen (5, Insightful)

z00_miak (1305831) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364363)

The problem with 'scaling back' NASA is that it's not like a factory or a bunch of servers that you can just switch back on in 5 years with a bit of maintenance.

If you cut funding and they have to cut engineering jobs, you're going to lose talent: experience that may not return when you decide you're in another space race.

Re:We need a national science and engineering agen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364613)

The moon shot was propaganda, partially, but it also unleashed a ton of new technologies and trained a generation of engineers.

It also got us Tang. Who doesn't like Tang?

Re:We need a national science and engineering agen (4, Interesting)

McGiraf (196030) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365271)

That made me curious. NASA invented tang?!?

It turns out it's an urban legend.

From Wikipedia:

"It was initially intended as a breakfast drink, but sales were poor until NASA began using it on Gemini flights in 1965 (researched at Natick Soldier Systems Center), which was heavily advertised. Since that time, it has been associated with the U.S. manned spaceflight program, so much so that an urban legend emerged that Tang was invented for the space program"

Re:We need a national science and engineering agen (3, Interesting)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364633)

Why do you think that saving the species is a good idea?

Why do you think UP is the answer, when DOWN provides a much more affordable, immediate and suitable environment? (Subterranean living) Sure DIRT is boring. But its cheap!

Re:We need a national science and engineering agen (1)

Swift2001 (874553) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364865)

Why do you think that saving the species is a good idea?

Why do you think UP is the answer, when DOWN provides a much more affordable, immediate and suitable environment? (Subterranean living) Sure DIRT is boring. But its cheap!

You can't mean that. Of course we want to survive, and thrive. That's good. I suppose a lizard man from Saturn is indifferent, but humans can't be.

ObBab5 quote (4, Interesting)

ChipR (1424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364707)

We may or may not find a role for men in space this generation, but space travel and investigation is absolutely fundamental for our survival as a species. And no corporation will EVER do what needs to be done, because it's not profitable except indirectly.

I can think of no better time to quote J. Michael Straczynski, using the voice of Commander Jeffrey Sinclair, talking about why humans go to space:

Ask ten different scientists about the environment, population control, genetics, and you'll get ten different answers, but there's one thing every scientist on the planet agrees on. Whether it happens in a hundred years or a thousand years or a million years, eventually our Sun will grow cold and go out. When that happens, it won't just take us. It'll take Marilyn Monroe, and Lao-Tzu, and Einstein, and Morobuto, and Buddy Holly, and Aristophanes, and - all of this - all of this - was for nothing. Unless we go to the stars.

I can't improve on that.

Re:We need a national science and engineering agen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364877)

Going to the moon for the first time ever (as was done in 1969) was obviously a technological 'step for mankind' as Neil Armstrong so eloquently put it. Right up there with the pyramids.

Is the equivalent challenge for America in 2017 going back to the moon? Not really. At all.

And you claim that manned space travel and investigation is absolutely fundamental for our survival as a species. No, it's not absolutely fundamental. In fact, it is debatable whether it is even necessary or beneficial. That's the basic argument being made by the scientists.

       

Re:We need a national science and engineering agen (1)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365369)

Is the equivalent challenge for America in 2017 going back to the moon? Not really. At all.

Going back there permanently is just as hard as going there for an hour and then coming back.

Re:We need a national science and engineering agen (2, Interesting)

TerranFury (726743) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365039)

The moon shot was propaganda, partially, but it also unleashed a ton of new technologies and trained a generation of engineers

Indeed. A whole lot of control theory -- my area -- was developed explicitly for the purpose of supporting the Apollo program. So much was done in controls during the 60s.

Re:We need a national science and engineering agen (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365261)

Manned space exploration may not be economical given more pressing domestic needs at present. But cutting back there doesn't mean cutting back on space exploration as a whole. We still need to send people up from time to time to maintain all that stuff orbiting out there. Just maybe not as often... at least for now, until the situation on the ground improves.

I think it's less of a let's kill it... (3, Insightful)

gravesb (967413) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364209)

I don't believe they are asking this because they want to kill it. I think it's because they want to provide it with a more defined purpose. Some clarity and consistency in spending.

Re:I think it's less of a let's kill it... (1)

Bacon Bits (926911) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364713)

I agree. I don't think the report is asking "what's NASA for?" it's going to try to ask "what do we want to do with NASA?" so that resources can be planned and goals set. We know that space exploration is valuable, but there's so many possible things to do. What do we, as a people, want out of space?

We have communications satellites. We have the ISS. We have reusable space vehicles. We've done exploration satellites like Voyager. What do we want now? Mission to Mars? Base on the moon? What would such a base be established to do, specifically? Space research alone doesn't have to be the only reason anymore, and it shouldn't be. Mining maybe? Is there a service that could be provided to the US or her citizens? The first satellites did nothing but orbit and transmit a constant signal. Later satellites were used for scientific research. Then communications and GPS. Today, the average person has access to services from orbiting satellites.

How can we know what technologies we will need unless we know where we want to go? If we want to commercialize space, what should we try to do first?

Re:I think it's less of a let's kill it... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365399)

everyone knows that NASA's purpose is to give crackpot global warming scientists money so that they have some semblance of credibility because they have NASA grants.

Something I would ask (1, Interesting)

Daimanta (1140543) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364213)

What is the real use of getting a man to Mars or another planet other thean bragging about it for the next 70 years? Somehow, some people are in favor of a manned space program. The question is, what is the tangible benifit of sending people to the moon/Mars/Jupiter/Proxima Centauri?

I feel that there is a lack of a concrete goal, something to stand behind. Something that has a good probability of pay-off in the future. Is "finding out things about other planets" a goal that convinces people to support (manned or unmanned) spaceflight? What do we really want?

Re:Something I would ask (1)

Path3 (1338747) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364319)

"What is the real use of getting a man to Mars"

There isn't.

Thankfully the people running our space program are grown ups and are only giving the idiotic 'send people to Mars so we can all watch them plant a flag' bullshit lip service and focusing on actually important space goals.

The exciting near term space technology and goals are orbital manned/robotic construction/repair and eventual manufacturing and a permanent manned base on the Moon.

Re:Something I would ask (5, Insightful)

ChipR (1424) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364369)

What is the real use of getting a man to Mars or another planet other thean bragging about it for the next 70 years? Somehow, some people are in favor of a manned space program. The question is, what is the tangible benifit of sending people to the moon/Mars/Jupiter/Proxima Centauri?

That's right up there next to the question "Why spend any money on space at all when we have so many problems that need solving right here on Earth?" I can't buy into either viewpoint. Manned spaceflight has its place, and I'll fight any effort to terminate it.

I feel that there is a lack of a concrete goal, something to stand behind.

Now this I can totally get behind. Goals are good, and a lack of them, or more accurately a continuous redefining of them, has crippled the US space program for decades.

Something that has a good probability of pay-off in the future. Is "finding out things about other planets" a goal that convinces people to support (manned or unmanned) spaceflight? What do we really want?

Sounds like your answers would be "No" and "Profit". The whole "pay-off" bit is a club that has been used to beat the space program repeatedly over the years. "What's in it for me? What's the return on my investment?" As with other forms of research and exploration, it's nearly always impossible to give firm answers to these questions. But experience has shown that the real answer usually is, "Far beyond expectations."

Ad astra per aspera!

Re:Something I would ask (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364507)

To be trite "To get there."

Putting people in space is impractical and in most cases completely unneeded. However, the complications of delivering humans to sub orbital space, orbital space, lunar orbit, the lunar surface, or to mars then successfully retrieving them have no analog on earth or even unmanned spaceflight.

Our understanding of material science has been greatly helped by the space program with the research done on working with titanium and ceramics. The considerations for RF interference are much greater when in space. As is designing power efficient circuits and solar cells. Life support systems are very complex and pose a wide range of questions as well, and moving towards longer term missions in increasingly hostile environments will force for better and more complete solutions which will find their way back to our daily lives.

Space travel isn't about what will it do for me today or tomorrow, it's what will it do for me on tomorrows tomorrow.

Re:Something I would ask (2, Insightful)

Nyeerrmm (940927) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364823)

The ultimate goal, to me and most people I know involved in the industry/movement, is permanent, sustainable, and eventually self-sufficient human life beyond Earth. Of course, this is to improve the odds of the survival of our species in the long run (so Hawking says).

At a lecture by Rick Tumlinson at ISDC 2007, he was talking about being in the working group defining what Bush's Vision for Space Exploration meant. The conclusion they came to is that the ultimate goal of any moon/Mars/etc. plan has to be permanent settlement. Now whether or not the current Constellation mission architecture fulfills this goal is a matter for some debate, I can't really argue effectively either way.

I do think that a lot of work up till now has gone that direction. The Mercury/Gemini/Apollo program developed the fundamental technologies to keep a human alive. The space shuttle/ISS science program has always had a strong focus on life sciences and determining the effects of life in space on humans. A well-developed lunar or martian mission would build on these, develop technology to facilitate life on another planet's surface, and study the effects of long-term presence in reduced gravity fields. Of course, having the people present does make the planetary science goals a bit easier.

I'd also say that the purer sciences of planetary and solar studies are important, and not particularly controversial since they are cheaper and safer. And one can't forget the Earth science objectives that are especially important right now with the potential of global climate change and demographic changes forcing food and water issues.

All of these do compete for resources, and it is necessary to allocate resources between the goals. However its not unreasonable to have three missions (four actually, remember aviation), since one doesn't preclude another, and in fact they are intricately linked. Earth-science and planetary exploration share many instruments and technology; understanding the environment of the solar system and the planets is necessary to keep people in space alive. The hard part is deciding the proper allocation: I imagine the Obama administration is going to build up earth-science, leave planetary exploration as is, and attempt to focus the manned program on more immediate goals by decreasing the manned gap while pushing back eventual moon and Mars missions, which makes sense to me since climate issues are more immediately critical, while the long-term goals of planetary settlement are important but can be delayed.

Re:Something I would ask (3, Insightful)

Amazing Quantum Man (458715) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364845)

Robert Browning had an answer, "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?"

So did George Mallory: "Because it is there".

Re:Something I would ask (1)

tenco (773732) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364849)

The question is, what is the tangible benifit of sending people to the moon/Mars/Jupiter/Proxima Centauri?

Because we can. More serious: to spread the human genome and getting better survival chances if some catastrophe sterilizes the solar system or it reaches an equilibrium state with no entropy gradient left. So that some human can carry on the real purpose (IMHO) of being here: finding out how the universe works (before it reaches heat death - yes, i demand you silly gamers turn off your gaming machines NOW ;)).

Re:Something I would ask (5, Informative)

Nebu (566313) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364893)

What is the real use of getting a man to Mars or another planet other thean bragging about it for the next 70 years? Somehow, some people are in favor of a manned space program. The question is, what is the tangible benifit of sending people to the moon/Mars/Jupiter/Proxima Centauri?

"Sending people to the moon" had a lot of prerequisites. These prerequisites include:

  • Developed by NASA
    • memory foam (used in your mattresses)
    • home insulation (not exactly invented by NASA, but they changed it from adhoc hacks into an actual science and engineering discipline)
    • Satelitte Dishes
    • GPS
    • Laser thermometer
    • Invisible braces
    • Joystick controllers
  • Improved by NASA
    • MRI
    • quartz clocks
    • smoke alarm
    • Water purification systems
    • Automobiles
    • cordless tools
    • Thermal gloves and boots
    • Shock absorbing helmets
    • Lithium Batteries
  • Found new uses by NASA
    • velcro
    • kevlar

And many, many more (see http://techtran.msfc.nasa.gov/at_home.html [nasa.gov] , http://spaceplace.jpl.nasa.gov/en/kids/spinoffs2.shtml [nasa.gov] , http://www.nasa.gov/audience/foreducators/5-8/features/F_Spinoffs_Extra.html [nasa.gov] etc.)

"Putting a man on mars" is simply an easy-to-define milestone. The real benefits are too long to lists.

Why? (5, Funny)

Werkhaus (549466) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364217)

Because it's polite.
An uncivil space wouldn't get much in the way of positive press.

Re:Why? (1)

Werkhaus (549466) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364277)

That should be space program. Terribly sorry.

Re:Why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365333)

And if we do meet up with any aliens, they are almost certain to be more advanced than us. We don't wnat to offend them.

In order to solve the ultimate question (2, Funny)

nickspoon (1070240) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364219)

What are the Clangers saying?

Why? As if you have to ask. (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364267)

Because it's there. Space, that is.

Re:Why? As if you have to ask. (4, Funny)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364531)

Well, considering that Space is a vacuum, shouldn't that be: because it's not there!

Why has already been answered (1)

0racle (667029) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364279)

NASA was formed to explore space as a peaceful endeavor, not as a conquest.

Re:Why has already been answered (0)

LandDolphin (1202876) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364397)

The moon landing / flag planting seems like a conquest to me.

/Assuming it was not filmed

//Joking

///or am I

////is this Fark?

Re:Why has already been answered (1)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364639)

"We came in peace for all mankind."

And note that the planting of the flag was more like the flag atop a mountain than claiming the Moon, in as much we're not allowed to claim the Moon by treaty.

Re:Why has already been answered (2, Interesting)

CheshireCatCO (185193) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364701)

Exactly. I think if we started running our scientific (or, more broadly, non-military) exploration of space via the DoD, it would surely be mis-construed by other nations. That's apart from the high potential for the objectives to shift away from science and general technology to military-specific goals.

Honestly, NASA, for all its flaws, is probably one of the *less* bureaucratic outfits in the Federal government. The DoD has, from what I've seen, a much worse track record at poor choices in spending. And in the end, NASA is an agency we can all be proud of, both as Americans and as a planet. (While the achievements are generally primarily American work, NASA definitely works with other nations. And even in the Apollo era when it was a more American-specific endevour, I think we as a species took communal pride in NASA's work because it wasn't done to materially benefit the US as much as to show what humans could do.)

Re:Why has already been answered (2, Informative)

NullProg (70833) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364747)


NASA was formed to explore space as a peaceful endeavor, not as a conquest.

Bullshit. Your confusing your Federation/Starfleet history with NASA.

NASA was created because Sputnik scared the shit out of everyone.
http://history.nasa.gov/sputnik/index.html [nasa.gov]


  The Sputnik launch also led directly to the creation of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). In July 1958, Congress passed the National Aeronautics and Space Act (commonly called the "Space Act"), which created NASA as of October 1, 1958 from the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) and other government agencies.

Enjoy,

Damn right. The military would screw it up. (1)

EWAdams (953502) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365077)

Do you think we would have achieved one-tenth the scientific advancements that we have if the military had been in charge of the space program? That's how Russia does it. Ask how many men they've put on the moon, or how many rovers they've put on Mars.

On top of that, the brass hats would have classified everything they discovered, just because that's their institutional mindset.

Keep the space program civil!

Question (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364293)

We have a civil space program in NASA, and we have the federated USAF space program. The real question is why have TWO programs?

BECAUSE (4, Interesting)

Sir_Lewk (967686) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364301)

Because we can.

That should be more than enough reason. We as a species have proven ourselves significant. We are the only know organism that has ever had the ability to leave the immediate confines of this planet. If we stop now then this monumental acheviement was not more than a cheap stunt.

Re:BECAUSE (1)

AaxelB (1034884) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364437)

We as a species have proven ourselves significant.

Well, we're either actually significant or we (and our planet) are so mind-bogglingly insignificant that it, uh, boggles the mind.

Re:BECAUSE (2, Insightful)

jcgf (688310) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364545)

I agree. I can't help but think that the people who are against space flight are either fat slobs who are in a tiff because they couldn't pass the physical or even worse those "solve the problems here on earth first" types. The first should be made to exercise to see their full potential and the second should be rounded up for "re-education".

Re:BECAUSE (0, Flamebait)

edward2020 (985450) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364643)

Yeah, you're right - anyone who wants to solve problems on Earth should be reeducated so that they don't give a damn. Especially if they don't square with your ideology. Great. I'm clapping excitedly for you.

Re:BECAUSE (1)

tsm_sf (545316) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365113)

He's talking about the mindset where someone's pet (but generally significant) problem must constantly take center stage, and woe betide the scientist or politician who shows interest in some other project.

"How can they think about Mars when there are children starving in America!"

It's a false dichotomy. There's plenty of money and brainpower to go around. I'd draw the line at saying these people need to be 'reeducated' however... they need to be educated in the first place.

Re:BECAUSE (1)

DCstewieG (824956) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365165)

We as a species have proven ourselves significant.

To who, ourselves? Gee, that was a hard sell. Reminds me a bit of Carlin [youtube.com] .

argument for a civil program (5, Insightful)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364343)

The reason for a civil space program is pragmatic. The military and government is concerned with goals that are separate and distinct from civilian interests. But what are those interests?

The military is concerned with control, management, and protection of national assets. Communications, surveillance, and counter-terrorism are primary goals. Towards this end, the military produces missiles and delivery systems capable of providing this. But the military has no need to explore space, or advance scientific research beyond this.

There is no military or security reason to put someone on the moon, or map out the surface of other celestial bodies. However our understanding of these can advance civilian interest. For example, the helium-3 surface deposits on the moon could provide a energy source far greater than that of fission or conventional power generation. Exploration of the martian environment could provide clues to the formation of our own planet and answer a question long-sought after by both scientists, philosophers, and theologians -- where do we come from? How did we become what we are today? By deploying powerful sensing technology into space we can peer deeper into the universe and unlock many secrets, providing advances in physics, metallurgy, and many other fields. Putting people into space allows for research in microgravity and zero gravity environments. Certain molecular structures only form in the absence of a strong gravitational field. It could provide for advances in building materials, or allow for the development of quantum devices that may not be possible to produce terrestrially (or be prohibitively expensive) en masse. Frankly, there is considerable research that needs to be done.

Military and scientific needs can sometimes be at cross purposes. The creation of a fusion power generator with a net positive output would be a major advancement for any country. Further exploration of the moon may in fact provide this as there are isotopes found there that are very amiable to this goal, much more so than any terrestrial source. However, such a powerful energy source could be used to create star-wars styled weapons, making land-based particle accelerators a reality, or other advanced weapons systems that simply aren't practical to deploy today. Localized atmospheric heating, strong RF fields to provide an ionization layer above a target, etc., all become possible with a large energy source. Because of this, the military would likely move to be an obstacle in such research because it threatens the balance of power. Perhaps it already has.

The military and civilian programs should work in tandem when possible to reduce overall costs, but should also be allowed to initiate their own programs independently of each other, as the need arises. To collapse the two into a single entity gives rise to questions of trust, integrity, and overall effectiveness. Ultimately, it would not be as beneficial to society as the present system is, though in the short term it would offer some economic benefit -- but at the expense of long-term economic and social gain.
 

Re:argument for a civil program (3, Informative)

Animats (122034) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364759)

For example, the helium-3 surface deposits on the moon could provide a energy source far greater than that of fission or conventional power generation.

That's space PR bullshit.

  • We don't know how to build any kind of fusion reactor that works.
  • Fusing He-3 is harder to do that fusing deteureum. It's potentially cleaner. Maybe.
  • The density of He-3 on the moon is very low. A big fraction of the Moon's entire surface would have to be strip-mined. Deutereum, on the other hand, is easily extracted from water.

Certain molecular structures only form in the absence of a strong gravitational field. It could provide for advances in building materials, or allow for the development of quantum devices that may not be possible to produce terrestrially (or be prohibitively expensive) en masse.

Nobody has ever found anything worth manufacturing in space. NASA has tried. For small things, gravity isn't that big a deal. For big things, lift capacity is too expensive. Some early shuttle flights carried an electrophoresis apparatus to try to make some drug, but it turned out to be easier to do that via genetic engineering. Almost all the the "science projects" currently on the ISS are related to space flight as an end in itself. There's currently something up on "biological macromolecular crystals", but in fact, those can and are grown on the ground.

Re:argument for a civil program (1)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365179)

None of this changes the main thrust of my argument. First, you're right - we don't know how to build any kind of fusion reactor. But the biggest source of working fusion we know of is sitting at the center of our solar system and we'd do well to investigate it. Point still stands that exploring space might open up avenues we simply won't discover terrestrially. As to microgravity research... hey, I'm just throwing it in as a potential. I'm sure there's many better examples that the slashdot crowd can come up with. Don't get all techie on me and miss the point of my argument because the details taste funny.

Because ... (1)

binpajama (1213342) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364375)

... it wanted to get to the other side.

If seperate civilian space goes, .... (2, Insightful)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364421)

Then congress will find it easier to kill off individual space programs.

Asking scientifically aware people is dangerous (0, Flamebait)

forthurst (986834) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364641)

"The members of the study committee are interested in the views (positive or negative) of the general public, particularly those people with a scientific and/or technological interest."" While you're at it, why not ask such people (those who are neither cretinous nor scientifically dysfunctional nor extremely gullible) what they think about a fable concerning 19 individuals armed with nothing more than religious faith and box cutters who managed to create murder and mayhem on a Herculean scale and thereby triggering continuous war in the West Asia.

My submission (3, Interesting)

Chandon Seldon (43083) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364647)

Space exploration, intended to lead to significant off-planet industry and settlement in the long term, is essential for the future progress of humanity as a whole. Exactly what the benifits will be isn't something that can be usefully predicted, but simply ignoring the resources of almost all of our solar system is clearly not a reasonable plan.

Currently only major governments have the resources to mount any sort of space exploration efforts. Since it's essential, and only major governments can do it, major governments must do it. That will remain true until it becomes viable for smaller organizations to take up the burden.

In order for government funded exploration to effectively lead towards future off-planet industry and settlement, the exploration effort must contribute towards lowering the price of and broadening access to space exploration technology. Meaningful off-planet industry and settlement won't occur at major-government-only price points, and it won't occur with major governments as the gatekeepers.

A military space program would be unlikely to meet these requirements. Technology would be kept secret rather than being shared, which would fail to contribute to advances by private sector entities and smaller governments. Flashy exploration spectacles would likely still occur - perhaps even more efficiently - but the main benefit to a government run space program would be lost.

A government funded space program's primary task should be to provide seed knowledge and technology for future private space exploration. It will have succeeded when there are multiple separately owned private sector moonbases, asteroid mines, orbital power stations, and long term research habitats. A military space program would subvert this goal through misallocation of resources and refusal to publicly disclose publicly funded developments.

Space Property Rights (2, Interesting)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365157)

We really need to be able to have laws that let people and corporations claim extra-terrestrial property as their own. Much the same as the Railroads got a huge chunk of land they could sell to individuals and take that money to make the trans-continental railroad we need a similar model for the space colonization.

These new "railroads" of the space age, (space X, Virgin Galactic, ect )"Union Galactic" so to speak could build the infrastructure for space colonization from both public funds and private funds. Heck we could even use cheap Chinese labor to build the thing since they want to go to space as well. Or they could use us....

Either way we need a new international agreement that is reasonable when it comes to countries, companies and private citizens claiming property on other worlds. As long as there is a provision not to settle places that already are settled by intelligent or semi-intelligent life.

We shouldn't have superfluous bureaucratic limits on this colonization process by having to do environmental studies on the moon before colonies can be built. If the planet you want to settle is a lifeless or near-lifeless rock, bulldozing and strip mining should be allowed in gusto.

Age old English saying... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364721)

It's better than having a rude Space Program!

Re:Age old English saying... (1)

Simian Road (1138739) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364739)

Hmm, buggy website. I definitely did not click "Post Anonymously".

This isn't asking "WHY" (1)

qazwart (261667) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364769)

This is asking about the GOALS of the civilian U.S. space program. No one is talking about throwing out NASA. They're talking about what NASA should be focusing on. For example, the Bush administration removed from Nasa's job description the part about monitoring the Earth and its environment. To me, that should be one of the primary goals of NASA.

That's 3 questions (3, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364779)

Why does the US have a civilian space program?

Because so many other nations do. Even India has a great space program. Why wouldn't the US?

Why does the US have a civilian space program?

Because militarization of space at this point in time is impractical and expensive, so international treaties require the separation of peaceful space exploration from military conquest in a transparent fashion.

Why does the US have a civilian space program?

Because space is the future of human kind. Earth was the cradle of humanity but one cannot stay in the cradle forever.

Not " why " , " shoud " (1)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364781)

The US has a civil space program because people who want space development, for various reasons - national pride, science, etc - find it easier to use taxpayers money than to actually convince people to fund it voluntarily.

It's right to have a space program, it's wrong to force people to pay for it if they don't want it.

Re:Not " why " , " shoud " (2, Insightful)

Microlith (54737) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365151)

people who want space development

Tend to appreciate what comes as a result, you know, the spinoffs of such research. Space research and development doesn't stay in space, it spreads into other fields like medicine, automotive technology, and sometimes general consumer products.

find it easier to use taxpayers money than to actually convince people to fund it voluntarily.

The money available from voluntary funding would probably be so small as to be insignificant. You won't see corporate donors of any real scale (not these days) unless there's a direct return on investment visible in the short term (2-5 years.) The majority of people can't see past their neighborhood, and wouldn't be able to point out something spawned from space development even if they had used it their entire lives.

it's wrong to force people to pay for it if they don't want it

They want it, they just don't realize it. Maybe if they weren't so anti-science and encouraged it instead, they themselves would realize what around them would benefit from meeting the design and engineering challenges for as harsh an environment as space, and maybe then we'd not need tax dollars.

But progress must continue in the face of ignorance. Or we could, you know, just blow up more brown people.

Simple Answer (1)

mveloso (325617) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364867)

The reason NASA isn't a military project is simple: the aliens wanted it that way.

Moon base sucks (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26364937)

Moon bases are a waste of time. There isn't sufficient water to warrant it. Mars has several million times more water in concentrated locations. The Moon has perhaps very small concentrations spread over a huge area trapped in dirt.

I wrote a short essay on this at http://www.geodex.org/blog/

How did we get here? (1)

heroine (1220) | more than 5 years ago | (#26364975)

All Oobs did was announce his intention of replacing Ares I with EELV's. Then that exploded into headlines about merging NASA & the air force. Now that has exploded into commissioning studies into civil space programs of any kind. His original 1 sentence must now be creating 1 million jobs.

Rudeness (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365043)

We have a civil space program because being rude doesn't get you anywhere in this galaxy.

And tell me sir (4, Insightful)

internerdj (1319281) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365071)

Why should Portugal fund your trip to find new trade routes to China? Even if such a route were to exist it would be much to expensive to travel that way. Good day Mr. Columbus.

Easy (1)

PieSquared (867490) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365123)

Because we need a space program and the first completely-private orbital launch took place in 2008? Seriously, private enterprise is great and everything, but it doesn't do very well at the type of thing that won't show a profit for 50 years. While NASA is certainly not the height of efficiency it *does* take billions in research before you have anything to show when you're trying something really new.

I'd love to see a thriving private space program, I just don't think that's likely to happen any time soon without a healthy public space program leading the way.

The answer is very simple +1, Helpful (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#26365129)

The U.S. has a civil space program so that the funds can be diverted for MILITARY PURPOSES, moron.

If you doubt this answer, I suggest you ask the
the Lame Ducker [youtube.com] .

Sincerely,
Kilgore Trout

Money Well Spent (1)

Plekto (1018050) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365169)

I know I'd rather have given NASA 700 billion than the banks. At least we'd get something for our tax dollars in the end.

Because of the Toynbee tiles (3, Interesting)

symbolset (646467) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365183)

The Toynbee tiles [wikipedia.org] are a warning to remind us of the perils of the militarization of space.

Wrong division (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365187)

civil space program (including human, robotic, commercial, and personal spaceflight)

WRONG

The appropriate division isn't military vs "civilian" but private vs public.

It's none of the government's business whether private individuals decide it is profitable, or just plain fun, to have a private space program or not.

The government's only real interest is in minimizing the negative externalities of such private activities -- exactly as with any other private activity.

That they're posing the question the way they are is terrible.

Bad Summary, Worse Assumptions (2, Interesting)

DynaSoar (714234) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365293)

"In short, the Academies are asking why the nation has a civil space program"

Asking what the future short and long term goals should be assumes the answer to be "to accomplish the goals chosen as most desirable" and assumes there will be such goals set. The last item ("how can") even more clearly assumes it exists to accomplish them and seeks to examine by what means it can best do so.

The inclusion of "civil" is misleading because it's superfluous. They are asking about the program administered by NASA, but they are not asking about it comparison to any alternative. The recent news about Obama's transition team questioning whether to cancel the Ares program in favor of using "military" (read: already developed, tested and available, regardless of original customer; that story was badly flawed too) has nothing to do with the Academies' efforts. The latter had to have been in effect well before Obama's people raised the question.

[from the site]:

The committee will, inter alia â"

â review the history of U.S. space policy and propose a broad policy basis for 21st century leadership in space;

â examine the balance and interfaces between fundamental scientific research in space, human space exploration, robotic exploration, earth observations, and applications of space technology and civil space systems for societal benefits;

â assess the role that commercial space companies could play in fulfilling national space goals and the role of the government in facilitating the emergence and success of commercial space companies; and

â highlight options for government attention to address and potentially resolve problems that might prevent achieving key national goals.

Illustrative examples of potential topics for the committee's consideration in the study include the following:

â Near-term and long-term human spaceflight program goals and options for fulfilling them;

â Utility of satellites in understanding global climate change and in advancing geophysical sciences (physical oceanography, solid earth sciences, etc.), and roles and responsibilities of government agencies in such Earth observations;

â Potential opportunities in various space sciences, including planetary missions, space-based astronomy, astrophysical observations, extraterrestrial life searches, assessing planetary bodies in other solar systems, etc.

â Reconciling total program content and total program resources for the civil space program;

â Strength of the U.S. space industrial base;

â Developing advanced technologies for applications in remote sensing and other areas;

â Access to space, availability and cost of U.S. launch vehicles, use of foreign launch capabilities; and

â International cooperation and competition in space programs.

National security space issues will not be a main focus of the report, but may be addressed to the extent that they interact with or impact the civil space program.

[and]

The committee invites you to comment on this study by filling out a questionnaire. Questions you might consider when framing your input to the committee:

â What should be the rationale and goals for the civil space program?

â How can the civil space program address key national issues?

The inefficiency is by design (1)

Eukariote (881204) | more than 5 years ago | (#26365375)

Government programs such as the civilian space program, the missile defense farce, and others that involve a lot of money and are very inefficient, or even pointless, allow large amounts of taxpayers money to be moved into the hands of the few. This, to a large extent, is their purpose. To see the greater scheme of things, take a closer look at how government finance really works: http://cafr1.com/ [cafr1.com]
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