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White House Panel Considers New Paths To Space

kdawson posted more than 5 years ago | from the leave-it-to-yoyodyne dept.

Space 151

Neil H. writes "The White House's Human Space Flight Plans blue-ribbon panel (the 'Augustine panel') has posted the material from their first public meeting on the future of NASA's spaceflight program, which was held on Wednesday. NASA officials presented their Ares I rocket plans and their belief that they can work around its design flaws, with projected development costs ballooning to $35 billion. The panel also heard several alternative proposals, such as adapting already-existing EELV and SpaceX rockets to carry crew to orbit; these proposals would have better safety margins than the Ares I, be ready sooner, and cost NASA less than $2 billion to complete, but are politically unattractive."

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Politicially unattractive? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28409807)

ObamaNazi is politically unattractive but we're stuck with him.

twitter (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28409809)

'I was otherwise engaged today, focusing on the "Twitter Revolution" in Iran'

Who'd have thought that Twitter would be "the worlds IT tool for encouraging revolutions" ... They should have called it ... uhm

Men on the moon (5, Insightful)

BadAnalogyGuy (945258) | more than 5 years ago | (#28409831)

We really ought to be way past the phase of getting wet in the crotch about putting a man on the moon. We've got the t-shirt already.

What we ought to be looking at is beginning construction of a moon base and the development of the infrastructure to perform longhaul transport back and forth from the Earth to the Moon. That means both reusable capsule technology and low-cost fuel.

If the original space race taught us anything, it's that there is a lot of prestige in doing the impossible. Putting a man into orbit is now not impossible. Putting a man on the moon is now not impossible. It's time to look beyond that towards building habitats elsewhere.

Re:Men on the moon (4, Insightful)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410103)

"there is a lot of prestige in doing the impossible"

Not only prestige: there is awesome a lot of money for those who invent the Next Industry. Had Minutemen not needed guidance systems, we could be using teletypes connected over phone lines to big mainframes.

We need simple, cheap and reliable heavy-lift vehicles. über Saturn V's running on cheap fuel made from aircraft-grade parts. And putting a man on the Moon is not impossible, but making him stay for 6 months has never been done before. Only a dozen guys have that t-shirt.

Re:Men on the moon (1)

davester666 (731373) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412431)

Fetch the intern-a-pult!

Re:Men on the moon (1, Interesting)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410139)

What near future goals are furthered by people living on the Moon? And is there a more effective way to achieve those goals than with a lunar outpost? I guess my chief problem with this sort of advocacy is that there is an obsession with far future needs (like human survival or the economic benefits of a human civilization predominately in space) with little attention paid to the gritty details of how to get from today to that wonderful tomorrow.

A lunar colony with little to no near future return on investment won't work in the long run. It's well above the disposable cash that the US (or collectively the world which has roughly 2 to 3 times the space budget of the US) spends on such things. My view is that the economics are the chief obstacle to space development and exploration. A big space project needs to make somewhere around 5-20% of its overall cost in some sort of value every year. If your project can't do that, then the money is probably better spent on space projects that can do that.

Re:Men on the moon (3, Insightful)

MikeURL (890801) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410575)

How about space exploration as entertainment? How many people on the planet would pay for live feed access to a manned mission to Mars? I know i would and I think I can count in every geek on the planet.

I mean, maybe we need to open the definition of "value" a bit. If you add up the total US dollar value of the last 10 blockbuster movies made by Hollywood that might even get you close to paying for a manned Mars mission. Maybe it is a bit unseemly to sell space exploration as "entertainment" but we have been doing it as fiction for 100s of years. Why not do it as non-fiction?

Re:Men on the moon (1)

Cold hard reality (1536175) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412371)

In a Hollywood sf movie you get 90 minutes of special effects. In a NASA moon mission you get several years of boredom followed by someone stepping out into a landscape that's by now familiar and uttering some canned line.

It's exciting, but how much advertising space on a spacesuit can you sell?

Re:Men on the moon (1)

Naturalis Philosopho (1160697) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413069)

Selling the live feed isn't so off...especially if the line "You've been voted off of the capsule!" was uttered every once in a while.

Re:Men on the moon (2, Insightful)

Cold hard reality (1536175) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413255)

The Earth-Mars round trip time lag is way beyond the attention span of an average Homo Sapiens.

Re:Men on the moon (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410949)

What near future goals are furthered by people living on the Moon?

Um, lemme help you out there, bud:
 

What near future goals are furthered by people living in north America?

I bet you sound like the stay-home whiners from way back when in Europe before ol' Columbus set sail. "Such a waste of money!" "Everyone knows y'all fall off the edge! We should rather buy more sculptures of Jesus for our churches, an' more wood to burn those witches (after we rape there sorry asses, mind you), an' more high-tech implements to forcefully open bellies in our torture chambers (and woohoo, don'tcha just love the spurtage when they pull off an arm!), an' more gold for the queen of Spain, an' let's not forget that other bitch the QOE, an' more money to pay our armies with, an' more money for the !HOLY! church of Rome so they can convert or kill more of those Jews, an' more money for our black slaves (every knows you can't have enough of them! Besides, one has to hang at least one a month to keep the vermin in line), an' an' an' glory be to JEEEEE-SSSSSUSSS!"

People like you hold back society, pal. So, fuckoff and die, will you?

extended mod options... (1)

whopub (1100981) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412525)

We should be able to mod this Flamebait-but-beyond-that-he's-fucking-right...

Re:Men on the moon (4, Interesting)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410291)

That means both reusable capsule technology and low-cost fuel.

Fuel costs are at the level of noise in the costs of running a rocket. Liquid hydrogen costs $3-$4 per kilogram. The shuttle goes through 10600 kg of liquid hydrogen, so thats only $40,000. Liquid oxygen is about ten cents a kilogram, or $60,000 per launch. It costs an average of $450,000,000 to launch a shuttle, so even if fuel prices quadrupled, they'd still be less than 1% of the total cost of a launch.

The problem with the fuel is that it is in the wrong location. We need fuel depots in strategic orbits: Low Earth Orbit, Lunar orbit, etc. The bulk of the mass that you lift to do a space mission is fuel, and the more massive the payload, the bigger and more expensive the rocket you need. You may be able to reduce the cost of a mission by launching several smaller rockets rather than a single large rocket.

I agree with the reusability aspect, although I'd rather see an HL-42 [astronautix.com] style crew module rather than the Orion. Ideally, that would only be to "shuttle" the crew from planetside to orbit and back. Once in orbit, they'd go to the Moon or Mars in a much larger Trans-hab/Bigelow styled craft.

Re:Men on the moon (1)

Cold hard reality (1536175) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412399)

Many small rockets mean many more engines, a lot more mission planning and control, and reduced mass efficiency (smaller rockets carry less payload as a fraction of total mass). There's a reason why we deliver goods on trucks and not motorcycles.

Having fuel stations in orbit would be nice, unfortunately you can't lay fuel pipes to orbit.

Re:Men on the moon (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410679)

Well, I'm not entirely sure you are correct about the need to put a man on the Moon. You see, it's not us with the t-shirt, it's us wearing our parents' t-shirt. For a lot of us it's grannie's t-shirt.

When China puts a man on the Moon, they'll be making a statement: America doesn't do this sort of thing anymore. They're coasting. Look to us for leadership and vision.

True, doing something that had never been done before would be even better for that purpose, but still they'll be doing something we don't currently have the capability or will to do. Unless we have something different to answer this with ("look at us, we just found a cure for influenza!"), China's claim will be credible enough to be worth the effort of going there.

Re:Men on the moon (1)

Cold hard reality (1536175) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412335)

We look at this, and we see that it is horribly expensive, dangerous, and with very little practical return.

And don't tell me that it's our only chance to survive if earth is destroyed. First of all, it won't be us who survive, it would be _them_, and I care about my own skin first. Second, a few months after earth is gone, so would be any moon colony. You can't live off the land there.

Afro-American Racism Against Whites and Asians (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412363)

During the election, about 95% of African-Americans voted for Barack Hussein Obama due solely to the color of his skin. See the exit-polling data [cnn.com] by CNN.

Note the voting pattern of Hispanics, Asian-Americans, etc. These non-Black minorities serve as a measurement of African-American racism against Whites (and other non-Black folks). Neither Barack Hussein Obama nor John McCain is Hispanic or Asian. So, Hispanics and Asian-Americans used only non-racial criteria in selecting a candidate and, hence, serve as the reference by which we detect a racist voting pattern. Only about 65% of Hispanics and Asian-Americans supported Obama. In other words, a maximum of 65% support by any ethnic or racial group for either McCain or Obama is not racist and, hence, is acceptable.

If African-Americans were not racist, then at most 65% of them would have supported Obama. At that level of support, McCain would have won the presidential race.

At this point, African-American supremacists (and apologists) claim that African-Americans voted for Obama because he (1) is a member of the Democratic party and (2) supports its ideals. That claim is an outright lie. Look at the exit-polling data [cnn.com] for the Democratic primaries. Consider the case of North Carolina. Again, about 95% of African-Americans voted for him and against Hillary Clinton. Both Clinton and Obama are Democrats, and their official political positions on the campaign trail were nearly identical. Yet, 95% of African-Americans voted for Obama and against Hillary Clinton. Why? African-Americans supported Obama due solely to the color of his skin.

Here is the bottom line. Barack Hussein Obama does not represent mainstream America. He won the election due to the racist voting pattern exhibited by African-Americans.

African-Americans have established that expressing "racial pride" by voting on the basis of skin color is 100% acceptable. Neither the "Wall Street Journal" nor the "New York Times" complained about this racist behavior. Therefore, in future elections, please feel free to express your racial pride by voting on the basis of skin color. Feel free to vote for the non-Black candidates and against the Black candidates if you are not African-American. You need not defend your actions in any way. Voting on the basis of skin is quite acceptable by the standards of today's moral values.

Re:Men on the moon (1)

St.Creed (853824) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412757)

It would help if someone actually had a reason for building habitats that made economic sense.

Examples would be "if we do this research on earth, it could blow up the planet". The LHC would have been great as a guise for getting to the moon - too bad the responsible scientists messed up that one. Ofcourse, it would have delayed it a bit :)

What about etremely risky genetic modification to humans? Would that be legal on the moon?

Gambling? Well we can do that at home.

Mining volatiles? Well as long as we think it's a smart idea, not much use in getting more of them. We'll have to wait until we're nearly out of them.

Helium-3 for spaceships? If say Jupiter had a gaslayer containing oxygen, hydrogen and helium-3 for our commercially viable fusion plants, well, maybe. Only when you have a warpdrive to go with it though.

I'm out of ideas, but I'm pretty sure other people have a few - lets hear them.

In the mean time: save the planet, it's all we have for now.

Bad article and bad summary (0, Offtopic)

YA_Python_dev (885173) | more than 5 years ago | (#28409863)

I know, this is /., but the article was written by someone who wasn't even able to spell correctly the names of the rockets, and the summary fails to mention the stronger alternative that doesn't requires big jobs losses within NASA in the next few years (DIRECT).

Space Elevator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28409901)

How about they create a goddamn Space Elevator already!?

Re:Space Elevator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28409975)

1) We can't even do nanotube ropes long enough for bridges and you want to use them for elevators ?
2) Current nanotubes are not strong enough for a space elevator anyway. I'm not a chemist so I don't know if we'll get to that point eventually.
3) How do you think one make a space elevator ? using another elevator to . That's a good idea for the second space elevator. But to build the first, we'll need rockets. Such as the ones we're developping right now.
4) Even if we had the technology right now (which we don't), it'll stil take years to build. What do we do during the meantime ? We could I don't know launch rockets.

Re:Space Elevator (2, Funny)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410069)

We can't even do nanotube ropes long enough for bridges and you want to use them for elevators ?

Come now. He didn't say it needed to be a BIG space elevator.

Re:Space Elevator (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410637)

Well then, what about anti-gravity?

Re:Space Elevator (0)

LifesABeach (234436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411089)

I think people would be Highly interested in the making of Bucky Wires. [slashdot.org] But the one idea that would be completely worthy of analysis is the Floating Frog [youtube.com] . The device that caused the frog to "float" was a Tesla Coil. "Anti-Gravity" can be done, but maybe an analysis of combining both would yield some constructive results? Granted, the device that could generate the required energy is "BIG", but the last time I checked, the sun keeps going 7/24, in space. From what I can see, current technology doesn't allow for one answer, but several technologies combined appears to be a fertile field of solutions. Maybe the answer doesn't currently lie in one big answer; consider this, a space elevator that is 70 miles high, +/- 1 mile, that hauls a cylinder of 1 kilo-gram of water? There are many, many reasons for failure, but what combination of reasons for success are there?

Re:Space Elevator (2, Insightful)

c6gunner (950153) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413309)

Granted, the device that could generate the required energy is "BIG", but the last time I checked, the sun keeps going 7/24, in space

Well, yeah, if you brought the sun down to the surface of the earth, it might provide enough power to do what you're proposing. The side-effects might be a problem, though.

The power of a magnetic field falls off exponentially with distance. Even if you could shape your field in such a way that all the leakage doesn't fry electronics for hundreds of miles around, you'd still need an insane amount of power in order to get the kind of speed / distance required for orbit. And by "insane" I mean "not even close to feasible". Using a magnetic rail mass-driver would work better, but is still impractical on the Earth (on the moon, it'd be a lot more effective).

And by the way, pointing at the sun and yelling "LOOK, FREE ENERGY!" is just stupid. We can't even figure out how to effectively harness it for our day-to-day use, let alone for some super-duper Dr. Evil style sciency gizmo thing. If large energy demands are a problem for your proposal, then pointing to the sun is definitely not a solution.

Re:Space Elevator (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28413939)

What about lowering the moon to (locally) partially cancel earth's gravity?

Re:Space Elevator (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410105)

As soon as you invent the materials. Now, turn off your computer and get back to your lab.

I'd rather use NASA money for interesting payloads (5, Insightful)

Dr. Spork (142693) | more than 5 years ago | (#28409927)

Obama's economists decided that they need to spend their way out of this recession, and even though Orion would not pass muster by my bang-for-buck standards, it's not the worst way to spend money if spending money is what you're trying to do.

Of course we could do better: We could dream big like JFK and (for the first time since the 60's) try something truly ambitious and expensive. As Americans, it's time we finally accomplish something! Ever since we lost the Vietnam war, we've been complete pussies about big projects. (It doesn't help that when we do try we fail miserably, like when we try to impose Western democracy to Iraq) As far as I can tell, the largest public project recently was the Big Dig in Boston. We can't even rebuild Ground Zero. We act like a country who lost faith in ourselves, in a time when it's very important that the rest of the world has faith in us (and our currency). We lucked into the internet - yes, that was cool, but it wasn't something we deliberately set out to do as a public communication tool.

I think that Obama should just ask to dust off the Titan V blueprints and build factory to produce them on a massive scale. Then use those to lift into space something really cool, like a 100m mirror for a telescope, solar collectors that beam power back to Earth, etc.

Re:I'd rather use NASA money for interesting paylo (1)

iamapizza (1312801) | more than 5 years ago | (#28409943)

It may help get us there, but in a recession where media hype is king, spending on something 'with no immediate returns' will be frowned upon by the public; maybe cause an uproar or two. Obama will probably be looking for the fastest way out of the recession, so a big project is definitely not on the agenda at the moment.

Re:I'd rather use NASA money for interesting paylo (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410977)

Hmmm... Get out of the recession a little faster? I'd propose killing off the ability to patent software and business methods. That would open the door for new players and spur the creation of small businesses. Right now, a part of the market is locked out because of that bullshit.

Another idea? Give some modest money to people with debts to pay off. Perhaps folks who are having trouble finding work despite recently getting various degrees. If there was some kind of national job placement program that would help cover relocation and educational debt, maybe there would be some spending money once the burden is gone and real income becomes a possibility. Companies participating in this would be able to get some kind of tax break, and there would be some kind of standardized tests for pool qualification instead of random and arbitrary HR screening B.S. (Experience schmecsperience! If you present the skills necessary to do the work, you get sent to the job if your number comes up.)

But noooo. What do they do? Dump money upon the debt holders while doing nothing for the people that really need to get out of the hole. I guess nobody cares enough to apply compound interest equations to compounding debt, if you help out the people that owe the least and have the smallest earnings it's easier to fix. But if they don't get help ASAP, then they end up in a financial black hole. And then there's some kind of stupidity that the holdings of debt with no ability to get past the event horizon (they lost their job, etc.) had some kind of value to it. Believe it or not, the economy is built like a pyramid. (I believe that's part of the reason why chose that symbol to put on the back of the national seal and the dollar way back when.) Right now the base of the pyramid has been dug out to patch the bricks on the top, and now the whole thing is sinking.

Anyhow, getting serious about space travel would be nice. But the majority of Earth society is too far inward looking right now in regards to the issue. It'll probably take an earthly encounter with a space rock that causes kinetic energy transfer on a national scale to snap humanity out of it.

ownership (1)

Colin Smith (2679) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410033)

Without it, nobody is interested in space.
 

Re:ownership (4, Interesting)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410435)

There's considerable truth to what you say. However what exactly is being claimed doesn't have to be the space equivalent of real estate.

In the 1960s, a race to claim thenational prestige of doing things first drove the space race. The early goals, being relatively simpler and more closely spaced in an absolute difficulty, encouraged a leapfrog approach to competition. Going to the Moon earned the ultimate "shut your mouth" bragging rights. It was a huge jump, and the Soviets had no chance of beating us to it. All they could do is watch, knowing that sooner or later they'd have to send a message of congratulation to whoever the US president was going to be. The Soviets were forced drop their sights to Earth orbit -- more practical in countless ways, but a loss in the prestige race.

Now I happen remember the Moon landing. I was only eight, but I read the newspaper every day. Not a few folks wondered why we didn't claim the Moon. We were planting our flag there, after all, in the time honored colonial fashion, so in their simple-minded way of looking at things it ought to be ours, fair and square. What those people didn't realize was that if we'd done that, we'd have wasted all the money we spent getting there. We weren't staking a claim to the most barren land ever trod by human feet. We were staking a claim for leadership of our species. Not absolute leadership of course, but a kind of first among equals status. That was worth far more to America than ownership of lunar real estate might have been. The only way to get it was to plant our flag there in the name of all humanity.

One wonders if the course of the Cold War would have gone differently if we had turned the Apollo Program into a land grab. Even decades later, as the great technology transfer program that is the H-1B visa program got into full swing, I'd meet young foreign engineers who were delighted to be in the US, because they imagined America to be the great driver of human technological progress.

Soviets landed on the moon first. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28414019)

Going to the Moon earned the ultimate "shut your mouth" bragging rights. It was a huge jump, and the Soviets had no chance of beating us to it. All they could do is watch,

I hope you do realize that the Soviets actually were the first to land on the moon, not with people but with a probe. They also had the first satellite, and the first man in space and the first probe that landed on another planet and the first spacewalk and the first space station and... well the list goes on.

The US landed the first man on the moon, and it was quite an accomplishment, but all things considered it wasn't a cut and dry race like you seem to think it was. The Soviets were winning. Perhaps the only reason they didn't land a man on the moon first was simply because of financial troubles, or because the US had so much cash to spare for such an endeavor.

Re:I'd rather use NASA money for interesting paylo (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410087)

100m mirror for a telescope, solar collectors that beam power back to Earth, etc.

You know, with a 100m magnifying glass in space, we could create a free chicken toasting area right here on earth, thereby reducing the vast global power consumption of McDonalds, KFC, Burger Kings, etc.

Re:I'd rather use NASA money for interesting paylo (1, Troll)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410119)

But that would cost us nearly as much as one month of war. Sorry, can't do that. Have to murder people, and be called "a true hero" by everyone. Including the commentators on the Colbert Report full episode site.

Re:I'd rather use NASA money for interesting paylo (2, Interesting)

Celc (1471887) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410265)

If it's a grand project you want I suggest you go manhattan-project on fusion power, the costs would be enormous and the benefit likewise.

Re:I'd rather use NASA money for interesting paylo (1)

ubergeek09 (1412177) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410297)

me too if we figure out fusion I think that full out space travel will follow after ridiculously cheap energy

Re:I'd rather use NASA money for interesting paylo (2, Interesting)

Graymalkin (13732) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411693)

NASA's highest budget years (in today's dollars) were 1963-69 and topped out at 5.5% of the federal budget. In the 70s this dropped to below 2% then below 1% where it stayed until the late 80s early 90s where it went back to 1%. It then went back down below 1% and has stayed there since. The total cost of Apollo was somewhere around $145b in today's dollars. For comparison the ISS is at about $150b with about $100b of that being paid by the US. The Interstate highway system between 1956 and 1991 cost about $500b and World War II cost about $288b. The Big Dig doesn't even come remotely close to these so your sense of scale is a little distorted. I wonder though which megaprojects do you think we should have taken on after Apollo but neglected to because we all decided to be pussies? Apollo only had as much funding and Congressional interest as it took to beat the USSR to the Moon. Once we landed there everyone stopped giving a shit and cut NASA's funding in half. Don't kid yourself, Apollo was an awesome project that advanced many fields of science significantly but it was undertaken as a dig swinging contest with the USSR.

In terms of rockets, while the Titans were a relatively dependable family they were expensive and dangerous. The current batch of EELVs beats the biggest Titan IV in lifting capability and price. I can't find any specifics on the Titan V's proposed payloads or costs but if they're anything like the Titan 3L2 and 3L4 studies done in the 60s they would have been expensive but impressive LVs. As it stands though the existing Delta IV and Altas V heavy variants are cheaper and have good lifting capacity. With nominal upgrades both EELVs can be man-rated and easily capable of both ISS and Lunar Orion launches. It would also mean that NASA is opening up a market for man-rated HLVs. This fulfills your proposal for opening a factory and building rockets on a massive scale. You're not going to see SBS systems any time soon as they're impractical to build and launch from Earth but there's a lot of missions that will become tenable if the cost of HLVs comes down due to demand.

Re:I'd rather use NASA money for interesting paylo (1)

blind biker (1066130) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414123)

Obama's economists decided that they need to spend their way out of this recession, and even though Orion would not pass muster by my bang-for-buck standards, it's not the worst way to spend money if spending money is what you're trying to do.

Of course we could do better: We could dream big like JFK and (for the first time since the 60's) try something truly ambitious and expensive. As Americans, it's time we finally accomplish something! Ever since we lost the Vietnam war, we've been complete pussies about big projects. (It doesn't help that when we do try we fail miserably, like when we try to impose Western democracy to Iraq) As far as I can tell, the largest public project recently was the Big Dig in Boston. We can't even rebuild Ground Zero. We act like a country who lost faith in ourselves, in a time when it's very important that the rest of the world has faith in us (and our currency).

I am with you, 100%

Current NASA Used car salesmen (2, Insightful)

Bjarne Bula (11937) | more than 5 years ago | (#28409939)

Call me crazy, but as far as I can tell, we're a month away from the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing. The bulk of the current population of the earth was born into a world where man had walked on the moon.

And NASA is asking for (another) $35B and a couple years to develop a rocket that can launch humans into space, never mind to the moon? Seriously?

I'm all for space exploration (and exploitation), and I even partake in the probably misguided notion that there is real value in having humans go into space, even though for the most part, it makes more rational sense to have robotic probes go in our place.

But even I have to question the sanity of pouring billions and billions of dollars into an organization so fscked up that they have to reinvent technology they provably had over forty years ago, and who keep losing people and equipment because they refuse to listen to their own engineers.

I grew up admiring NASA and the astronauts, and with a burning desire to be one myself, or at the very least work there, but today I wouldn't buy a used car from the current crop of hacks running the place.

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410029)

If you can send two rovers to mars for less than 500 millions, then please do.

PS: I'm sure some moron will try to explain us how the supremely intelligent Ayn Rand (cough cough cough) would have been able to do it for less than 1 million.

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410191)

If you can send two rovers to mars for less than 500 millions, then please do.

Give me $499m. I'll get 'em there.

Oh, you mean... in working order?

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (5, Insightful)

turgid (580780) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410055)

It's not NASA's fault that they lost the technology used to put the first people on the Moon. It's the fault of the government of the USA. They are the ones who set NASA's goals. They killed manned space exploration with the Space Shuttle, which was a compromise designed by committee for the purposes of putting up and bringing down spy satellites and to "build the space station."

After the Challenger disaster (a direct consequence of the Shuttle's poor design), the spy satellites went up on different vehicles.

How long did it take them to design a space station? It must have been the better part of a decade that they spent arguing about it before any of it got built.

As people keep saying, they could have build it with about 3 launches of a Saturn V.

The space shuttle is an over-engineered, fragile, over-complicated, unreliable piece of design by politics. It's an exemplary lesson in how not to design things.

Politicians, as usual, ruined manned space exploration.

But why should it be up to the Americans on their own to put human beings in space? Yes, Russia and China have done it, but I'm very ashamed that ESA hasn't done it yet.

If China were to announce plans for a semi-permanently staffed Moon base by 2022, say, things would become interesting again. Go China.

Russia should not be overlooked too. They have huge gas reserves, and if they stop being aggressive towards their potential customers, they could make huge amounts of money out of it to fund their space programme.

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (2, Insightful)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410257)

"I'm very ashamed that ESA hasn't done it yet."

Don't be. LEO is a very boring place for humans to be. Until there is a credible way to go somewhere (hint: the Moon) there is little reason for humans in space.

Or, perhaps, a satellite repair crew could be stationed in LEO and operate a fleet of unmanned tugs to bring back and forth damaged satellites for refurbishing. I am sure the math would not work out at first, but it would be an insanely cool thing to try.

And, if we develop the cheap launch technology, it may even work.

The only reason for a shuttle-like spacecraft is to bring bus-sized payloads back from space. Every other role could be played by simpler, more reliable, cheaper spacecraft.

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (2, Informative)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410409)

It's not NASA's fault that they lost the technology used to put the first people on the Moon. It's the fault of the government of the USA. They are the ones who set NASA's goals. They killed manned space exploration with the Space Shuttle, which was a compromise designed by committee for the purposes of putting up and bringing down spy satellites and to "build the space station."

Nonsense. NASA wasn't some powerless orphan pushed around by bigger forces. They were the only ones who really understood what they were doing. The Apollo program worked as advertised and possibly ended later than planned (after all, once someone walks on the Moon you've satisfied all the requirements laid out at the beginning by Kennedy!). Sure they didn't have the ability to retain their cushy Apollo era budget, but Congress didn't force them to design a vehicle that only made sense with an Apollo era budget. My view is that NASA, if it had come up with a competent vehicle, could have gotten the funding approved. The "spy satellite" capability only was needed when NASA's vehicle became so big that they couldn't fund it solely with NASA funds. A smaller vehicle (for example, get rid of 90% of the payload capability of the Shuttle) wouldn't have needed military funding and hence would not have labored under military requirements. But NASA wanted the big, heavy lift vehicle. So in order to get enough funding for the Shuttle, they had to get some from the DoD.

The key to understanding the drama surrounding the Shuttle is to realize first, that the original design of the Shuttle was too ambitious. Virtually all of the problems and difficulties (eg, the Shuttle tiles, attempting to force all commercial satellites onto the Shuttle in the early 80s, making numerous space science projects and the ISS dependent on the Shuttle) since flow from that original bad design decision.

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (1)

gbjbaanb (229885) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410799)

The "spy satellite" capability only was needed when NASA's vehicle became so big that they couldn't fund it solely with NASA funds.

I understood part of the shuttle design had 'input' from the military who demanded it be big enough to launch spy satellites. NASA wanted a smaller one for crew.

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (1)

meringuoid (568297) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413727)

But why should it be up to the Americans on their own to put human beings in space? Yes, Russia and China have done it, but I'm very ashamed that ESA hasn't done it yet.

ESA have kicked the idea around from time to time, most notably with the Hermes project of the 1980s to build a mini-shuttle to launch on an Ariane V, but politics got in the way. The Germans got quite irate about being asked to fund far more than their share, especially with the costs of reunification with the East. The British wouldn't pay anything at all towards any manned project. And since Russia was opening up, it made more sense just to pay for Soyuz flights as needed.

There's probably a better chance now of a European manned launcher than at any time before. ESA have the ATV, a cargo carrier for supplying the ISS: this does not carry crews, but is man-rated and acts as extra inhabitable space while docked, and there's a possibility it might form the basis of a manned spacecraft, should it prove necessary in case of an extended American failure to replace the Shuttle. Sadly, it's not just a matter of adding an independent life-support system; the ATV is meant to burn up on re-entry and take all the accumulated rubbish and waste from ISS with it. Not a feature you really want in your crewed spacecraft.

Ambitions have changed since 1969 (3, Interesting)

Attila the Bun (952109) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410141)

But even I have to question the sanity of pouring billions and billions of dollars into an organization so fscked up that they have to reinvent technology they provably had over forty years ago, and who keep losing people and equipment because they refuse to listen to their own engineers.

Standards have changed since 1969. The Apollo programme was expensive and dangerous. Building another Apollo mission today would still be expensive and dangerous, and worst of all it wouldn't meet modern ambitions. NASA is looking at building an inhabited lunar outpost, visiting an asteroid, launching a large deep-space telescope, and a mission to Mars. It might be a short hop from the Moon to Mars on a poster of the solar system; in real space it's a whole different prospect. Doing new stuff requires new technology.

Re:Ambitions have changed since 1969 (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410327)

Standards have changed since 1969. The Apollo programme was expensive and dangerous. Building another Apollo mission today would still be expensive and dangerous, and worst of all it wouldn't meet modern ambitions. NASA is looking at building an inhabited lunar outpost, visiting an asteroid, launching a large deep-space telescope, and a mission to Mars. It might be a short hop from the Moon to Mars on a poster of the solar system; in real space it's a whole different prospect. Doing new stuff requires new technology.

The irony here is that if the US had launched Saturn V's all along, they'd already have this, probably back in the late 80s. Bending metal and launching the vehicle in question is a more certain routine to safe and reliable launch vehicles than paper rockets like the Ares V.

My view is scrap the Shuttle after completion of the ISS and develop manned versions of the Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicles (or EELV) Atlas V Heavy and Delta IV Heavy (breaking up the ULA in the process). Develop orbital propellant depots (so that your large interplanetary vehicles don't need to bring propellant mass with them when they launch from Earth) and orbital assembly. For example, if one looks at the Apollo program vehicles, there are really three very light vehicles (the [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Command/Service_Module#Command_Module_.28CM.29]command module[/url], the service module, and the [url=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Apollo_Lunar_Module]lunar module[/url]) and a huge pile of propellant. An EELV could carry any of those into low Earth orbit (LEO). Perhaps there might not be enough propellant capacity in the Service module for flight to and from lunar orbit starting in LEO, in which case, one could add a booster to get the necessary velocity boost that the upper stage of the Saturn V provided for Apollo.

Still four launches of EELVs can match Apollo in terms of hardware. Perhaps we can get that down to three or even less (by flying pairs of lunar modules up to LEO at a time, for example). Propellant can fly up on whatever is the cheapest launcher (in cost per kg). And for purposes of safety, you don't have to put people in until the rest of the stack is assembled and checked.

Re:Ambitions have changed since 1969 (1)

jstults (1406161) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410641)

Check out the Direct slides (it's unfortunately bloated compared to the rest of the files by some superfluous vids), they recommend an approach that uses a propellant depot. Direct also gives you one modular family of vehicles, like the EELV and unlike current Constellation, this is an indication of the very poor fundamental design choices made by NASA technocrats using powerpoint engineering (see [edwardtufte.com] Tufte [edwardtufte.com] ). Completely scrapping the shuttle would be wasteful when it already *is* a Saturn V class launch vehicle if you don't have to lug the orbiter around all the time. Plus it is more efficient, fuel and structure-wise than the Saturn V. Going the EELV route has lots more unknown unknowns than a shuttle derivative. I think the Direct + COTS approach is a win. Direct leverages existing infrastructure/technology/workforce, SpaceX is lean and actually throwing mass.

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (1)

rbanffy (584143) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410219)

"it makes more rational sense to have robotic probes"

No robotic probe can tell you how it "feels" to be there. A robotic probe is a machine. A manned spacecraft is a part of Humanity.

But, about pouring billions into NASA... Well... I seems like they lost their mojo. They need to reinvent themselves, be willing to take risks more smartly (it took over 100 flights, 7 deaths and a lost spacecraft for someone to even look at what kind of damage a shuttle takes on launch? Seriously?).

I guess NASA needs more test-pilots and engineers and less scientists. I suggest we sacrifice the science for now in order to build a more solid, cheaper and versatile space access infrastructure. The very moment we can launch stuff cheaply we will see an expansion of space science like we never saw before. You spend billions on a space probe because it will cost a couple hundred millions to launch it. It's easy to imagine hundreds of cheaper science projects piggybacking on cheaper space access.

Inexpensive space access is the key. That should be the _only_ focus for NASA for the foreseeable future.

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (2, Insightful)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410493)

The problem with NASA is that it has been hobbled by the past several administrations. NASA simply does not have enough money to do what it is supposed to do. This is particularly true with Bush's vision for space exploration. He wanted NASA to develop a new launch architecture, build a Moon base, and send people to Mars, all with the current level of funding. It is hardly surprising that things are not working. As Scotty might say... Ye canna change the laws of economics.

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (1)

jstults (1406161) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410669)

That's certainly the party line, but it's not consistent with reality. The problem with NASA is NASA. See Rogers commission report or the Columbia accident investigation report, Tufte's or Feynman's criticisms. NASA is a bureaucracy that's sicker than most, and the criticisms haven't changed much over the last few decades. They aren't quite terminal yet, but they are circling the drain. COTS is a bright spot, firm fixed price for actual accomplishments rather than cost-plus for power point slides and paralysis by analysis (Lock-Mart and Boeing I'm looking at you), that's a win no matter how you look at it.

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (1)

mrsquid0 (1335303) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411033)

Well, there is truth to that, but it is not the underlying problem. The underlying problem is the lack of funding, and underlying that (which I did not mention in my original post) is the lack of a well-thought-out vision of what NASA is supposed to be doing. The NASA-is-a-bad-bureaucracy story is largely a myth. I have worked in many large organizations and NASA (where I currently work) is no worse than many others. The problem with the bureaucracy at NASA is that NASA has been in a holding pattern for a generation. That takes its toll. The only parts of NASA that have been moving forward are the unmanned science directorates, and they are doing amazing things with fairly small amounts of money, largely because they have reasonably coherent visions behind them (the astrophysics Decadal Surveys, for example). The manned programme needs a similar, well-though-out, set of goals.

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (2, Interesting)

jstults (1406161) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411353)

I'll agree with you about lack of vision/leadership, but that is a symptom not a cause. The system rewards and promotes a certain type of manager, right now NASA's system promotes and rewards bureaucrats (like most gov orgs, I'm not just picking on NASA) rather than technically competent leaders. You get the leadership that the system gives you, this has nothing to do with funding levels. I've seen really great leaders do awesome stuff on a shoestring. I've consistently been impressed by the technical competence of NASA engineers in my field (especially out of Langley), but as a taxpayer I've been consistently disappointed by their management (you're right, many other orgs have the same problems).

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414159)

The system rewards and promotes a certain type of manager, right now NASA's system promotes and rewards bureaucrats (like most gov orgs, I'm not just picking on NASA) rather than technically competent leaders.

I don't think anyone would question that former NASA administrator Michael Griffin is technically competent -- he has multiple engineers master's degrees and a PhD in aerospace engineering. However, the reason NASA suffered under him is because he sucked as a bureaucrat, pushing NASA towards his own pet ideas and suppressing contrary opinions within NASA.

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414137)

I disagree with the idea that a lack of funding is NASA's big problem. At least focusing specifically on the Ares I, the problem is that the former NASA administrator Michael Griffin decided to push his pet project onto NASA and silence engineers who protested about its inherent design flaws.

If NASA had instead used commercial rockets (two of which already existed and only needed relatively minor modifications, and another which was being built at the time and now exists), the rockets would likely be doing initial flight tests today or in the near future. It would also cost dramatically less, even if multiple competing rocket designs were contracted, freeing up NASA funding to focus on what to do in space, instead of how to get there. In contrast, giving the Ares I additional funding would just deepen the hole NASA is currently in.

Re:Current NASA Used car salesmen (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413829)

But even I have to question the sanity of pouring billions and billions of dollars into an organization so fscked up that they have to reinvent technology they provably had over forty years ago,

Actually, it's not just technology that NASA had forty years ago, but it's also technology that a number of commercial companies possess today. For some bizarre reason though NASA (or at least certain parts of NASA's management) has a not-invented-here syndrome when it comes to manned spaceflight, and feels the need to spend a few dozen billion dollars to try to duplicate and compete with what the commercial sector can already provide.

If we have to choose (4, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28409963)

If we have to make a choice between health care and building a moon base, I say go with the less expensive lift vehicles and health care.

The moon base will just have to wait.

Re:If we have to choose (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410081)

That's a terrible choice. The US already has health care. (As I see it, the problem is that demand has been artificially boosted, supply artificially constrained, and an extremely broken market implemented for health insurance and health care). Meanwhile a moon base in today's political climate has a high potential of becoming a low value boondoggle.

Re:If we have to choose (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410393)

I'll say. My mom was hospitalized in the States when she was on vacation last year. They charged her US$6.00 for an aspirin. Six dollars?!?! You could get 50 tablets over the counter for that much, and a bulk buyer like a hospital should be able to score a lower price than that.

Re:If we have to choose (4, Insightful)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410957)

You didn't go to the pharmacy and buy them over the counter though, did you? You went to the hospital for them. A doctor had to write an order for the aspirin. A pharmacist had to pull the order for a single dispensary package of aspirin. A nurse had to get the aspirin for you. The nurse had to take time to double check the order against the chart and patient ID (that wrist band she was wearing). The lowest paid of those people make north of $30k/year. It has nothing to do with bulk cost. You paid for aspirin and the professional medical services, and all the support staff, that go with prescribing it and hand delivering the single dosage to you.

Re:If we have to choose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410101)

According to some [projectcamelot.org] , the moon base is already there, you're just not allowed to know about it.

Re:If we have to choose (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410133)

Science can make health care better. Health care can not make science better.

Also, with 6.7 billion people on earth, who cares if 10% of them die? We reproduce quicker than anyone can kill us. Remember when we were at 6.0 billion?

Re:If we have to choose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28411591)

who cares if 10% of them die?

Here's hoping you're in the 10%.

Re:If we have to choose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410309)

And that's why America is not the leader in innovation that it used to be.

Re:If we have to choose (1)

GaryOlson (737642) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410369)

Most of the mess which is health care reimbursements is based on Medicare/Medicaid schedules -- what is allowed and what is not. And the regulations which in reality force my insurance to cover only what Medicare thinks is important. Excuse me, I am not an old person or a welfare recipient. My health care requirements are quite different.

Health care problems don't require funding, they require the political courage to fix regulations.

If only we had that choice. (1)

hey! (33014) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410611)

The big problem with health care spending is rising faster than inflation. In a country where over 15% of the GDP is spent on health care, that ought to concern us. It's projected to hit 17% of GDP very soon.

A simple minded projection would have us spending 1/5 of every dollar created on health care within a decade; 1/3 in about 25 years; 1/2 some time in the 2050s.

Of course that won't happen. The economy will collapse well before then, if it isn't doing so now. There are basically two options: crash and burn, or engineering some kind of soft landing. The latter option gets more expensive the longer we wait. If we'd done something the 1960s, when we spent 5% of GDP on health care, it would have been an incredible bargain by today's standards. If we could roll back the avalanche of cost increases back to 1980 when we spent half of what we do now, it would be a no-brainer. In today's terms, we're looking at a trillion dollars per decade, and in a few years that might well look at that figure as a deal we were foolish to pass up.

We have come to this point: it's not health care or X, where "X" is space or military expenditures or infrastructure or whatever. It's heath care or not-X. You might not not get that Moon base after paying to fix health care, but you definitely won't get it if you let the crisis get even larger.

Re:If we have to choose (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28412051)

If we have to make a choice between health care and building a moon base, I say go with the less expensive lift vehicles and health care.

The moon base will just have to wait.

That is the same thing they told me when they canceled Apollo 18, 19, 20.
40 years and the social programs still just need a little more time.
We have tried it your way and I have waited long enough sir.

Re:If we have to choose (1)

blitziod (591194) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412361)

see but it is not...when is the last time anybody here in the US was denied health care? not in a long time. Even if you are uninsured, you get treatment. The real problem with the healthcare system is political. We have less healthcare personal per 1000 people than we have in years. This creates an artificial shortage of supply and keeps prices climbing. If Obama wants to fix healthcare he will have to fix this flaw. He is not even talking about it, so i doubt it will be done. Instead he is using this problem to accomplish political goals that will not do much for healthcare. Fix healthcare? How about we create MORE doctors. I am not talking about clones here, but just by doubling the number of medical schools( or the capacity of ones we already have) in the next 10 years. You want to talk about creating new jobs, ok well lets make new doctors not new burger flippers! Same thing with nurses and other medical jobs. We need to fix malpractice insurance. If you want to socialize a part of medicine i saw start here. Currently most medical bills are paid by insurance companies. All malpractice pemiums are paid to insurance companies. And frankly as the AIG disaster has taught us, at the higher levels most insurance is owned by very few companies. Malpractice insurance is a scam where insurance companies PAY THEMSELVES for our healthcare thus driving the price up for anybody not in there system. Malpractice insurance costs healthcare providers 30% or more of there gross. Cut that in half and you reduce costs by 7% and much more in some areas( obstitricians get fleeced). Also you remove a huge reason why many smart people do not want to practice medicine. If healthcare is a national interest more than other industries, why not fund Dr education more? I mean if I can make more money with an MBA and it is easier to get into an MBA program and CHEAPER to pay my loans back if i get an MBA, why the fuck go to med school and work a lot harder for less cheese? How about we say ok, you wanna be a doctor..the top 20%( or 50% or 10% i am not sure what number to use here but we can come up with one based on need) of all premed students, provided they can make decent grades in the entry exams, get automatic admission to a med school. If the school is full we MAKE MORE CAPACITY. Then we say "Ok new doctor we know you owe 250K in student loans and that there are many dr's out there starting practice so the job market aint what it was in the 90's BUT we are gonna help you out. You agree to practice at this special fee structure for Y number of years and we will forgive those student loans. Also after your loans are paid off if we still need you, cuz we don;t want the poor to have only new dr's you keep the fee structure and pay NO TAXES!!!You damn glad you didn't go to law school now !

Re:If we have to choose (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413207)

And that would be the BIGGEST mistake that we would ever make. Health care can be addressed WHEN WE CHOSE TO. Sadly, we have too many big business in this. The reason of pushing for the moon and beyond is because of LIMITED RESOURCES. Do not tell me that we do not have limited resources. We have lots of rare earth items that are found in various countries that are currently being grabbed by CHina. Down the road, the west will not have access to many elements that we will need. The simple fact is that it will lead to WAR if we stay here and do what you propose. INSTEAD, we should get on the moon and/or mars ASAP. In particular, if going for the moon, we should be building several mag-rail launchers on there. If designed right, These could LITERALLY THROW a sat into a fast path out into the outer solar system to explore a number of asteroids. Add vasmir on these, and we have the ability to send sats throughout our solar system to explore and look for potential resources. Once we find a number of promising asteroids loaded with minerals, then we put a vasmir on it, slow it down, and allow the sun to pull it towards earth. Once started, then vasmir can speed things up. By sending minerals our way, we could have cheap resources and avoid future wars.

Americans, even the west, USE to think long term. Since 1980, we have been HORRIBLY short-sighted. Time to change for the good of the world.

New paths to space? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28409997)

Like what... DOWN, this time?

Re:New paths to space? (1)

Starayo (989319) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410449)

We dig a hole to china and steal THEIR rockets! Ahahaha!

Re:New paths to space? (1)

Zantetsuken (935350) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411111)

For some reason that sounds like a Command & Conquer storyline...

For the uninformed... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410039)

The Disclosure Project [disclosureproject.org] ...there is much more out there than the official story. Educate yourself and demand answers.

"New Paths" (1)

RobVB (1566105) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410043)

Other than "up"?

Re:"New Paths" (2, Funny)

spqr0a1 (1504087) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410075)

If you try hard enough down also works. *ducks*

Re:"New Paths" (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410299)

We should conquer Australia for their strategic "down" path to space.

Re:"New Paths" (4, Funny)

Starayo (989319) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410665)

I welcome you to try. You'll get here and be dead within weeks, since EVERYTHING IS POISONOUS. :(

Up (1)

tverbeek (457094) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413391)

How about "Up"? [go.com]

Stephen Baxter predicted these times a decade ago. (2, Interesting)

isolationism (782170) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410215)

The Manifold series predicted many of the problems we have here today; the aging Shuttle fleet, the private entrepreneurs trying to step up to the plate to supply heavy lifting capability, and all the political BS from "The Gun Club" (NASA) cock-blocking the private entrepreneurs.

There's also no small mention of how asteroids are flying goldmines. If we want to head off-planet, it would be wise to take advantage of resources that aren't already at the bottom of a gravity well that costs what, $30,000/lb. to LEO?

Stephen Balmer? (1)

Dr.Syshalt (702491) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410839)

There's also no small mention of how asteroids are flying goldmines.

I've read "Stephen Baxter" as "Stephen Balmer" at first and was wondering how asteroids relate to flying chairs... Damn /. memes..

Manned space yield (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410259)

Tell me exactly what we have gotten from manned space flight -- besides velcro and tang!

Re:Manned space yield (1)

CarpetShark (865376) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412385)

The ball-point pen. Astronaut ice-cream.

Buzz Aldrin thinks the moon is a waste of time (3, Interesting)

cjsm (804001) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410365)

In a NYT article in the Sunday Magazine, Buzz Aldin thinks the Russians have a better idea in going to Phobos as a stepping stone to Mars. The moon..."is not promising for commercial activities."

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/21/magazine/21fob-q4-t.html?ref=magazine [nytimes.com]

Re:Buzz Aldrin thinks the moon is a waste of time (1)

jstults (1406161) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410733)

Buzz is a smart guy. Robert Zubrin's books (Case for Mars [wikipedia.org] , Entering Space [wikipedia.org] ) also address why the Moon is *not* a good stepping stone to Mars. He has, *gasp*, actual rocket science to back up his argument (basic orbital mechanics and the rocket equation) rather than silly rah-rah from NASA management about reliving the glory days by returning to the moon. The really frustrating thing about it is that if you've had a high-school physics class and a calculus course you can understand the argument, no need for NASA to dumb it down (too much) for public debate (I know, I know, I must be new here).

Re:Buzz Aldrin thinks the moon is a waste of time (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410967)

I like Zubrin, but he does have a tendency to write just one side of an argument, and fail to mention that the opposite side has any facts and arguments that might go the other way.

Also, note that Zubrin and Aldrin are saying opposite things-- Buzz says "let's go to Phobos," while Bob says "Phobos is a dead end, we want to go to the surface of Mars."

NASA is just not that expensive. (3, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410823)

I know a lot of people are down on the idea of sending people to the moon, or to mars, or to any other place outside of earth's gravity, for the sake of doing so. I think that is exactly why we should do something. In the short term, there is no logical reason to put people in space. But in the long run, we know that we must go there, and thus, we must make halting, childlike, inefficient steps to learn how to get there.

As a species, our first craft to traverse the waters with were not 70,000 ton container ships, 100,000 ton aircraft carriers, or 200,000 ton oil tankers. Most likely it was a crude piece of wood that floated. Later, we would learn to hollow things out, or put pieces of wood together. It took us many years to get from those days to now.

There does not need to be a contest of manned exploration versus unmanned science. At most we are quibbling about an additional 5 to 10 billion dollars per year. Out of a federal budget of several trillion dollars, this is chump change. I would shocked to find that as we have achieved some sort of victory in Iraq, we cannot use some of the nearly 700 billion dollars a year in military spending for this purpose.

White House Panel Considers New Paths To Space (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410887)

Up?

Space-X safety? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28410913)

The panel also heard several alternative proposals, such as adapting already-existing EELV and SpaceX rockets to carry crew to orbit; these proposals would have better safety margins than the Ares I, be ready sooner, and cost NASA less than $2 billion to complete, but are politically unattractive."

I love Space-X, I love their ambition and what they're trying to do, but it's just clueless to say that going with Space-X would result in "better safety margins". Space-X is a start-up. Their safety record is entirely hypothetical. They just toss off their first three failures as "oh, well, we had a little problems starting up but we're better now," but in fact they are not yet out of the learning stage, and there's no real evidence yet how long it will take to get out of the learning stage. Their reliability, to date, is one success in four tries.

They are cheap, but they have not yet proven that they can be reliability while staying cheap, or that they can be cheap while staying reliable.

It's not at all clear that their option would "cost NASA less than two billion to complete," either. If everything works as planned the first time, well, sure, maybe. But if things don't work first time? What's their track record?

For all their work, most of what Space-X is actually offering so far is pretty pictures and really enthusiastic exclamations of how great they are. I want them to be great... but I am also a skeptic. What have they proven? And, frankly, "better safety margins" is not it.

Fix the invisible hand (1)

Baldrson (78598) | more than 5 years ago | (#28410971)

I already went through this with the government back in the early 90s [archive.org] .

What I learned is that Adam Smith's invisible hand is broken -- although technosocialism like the Shuttle program is even worse.

So fix the invisible hand by reforming government to attend to its real business: Paying out citizens dividends under the social contract that brings us together to protect property rights that would not exist in the absence of that social contract. As with any dividend stream, there is an optimum for the shareholders that does not kill the goose that lays the golden eggs.

Dig a hole through Earth. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28411309)

Dig hole through Earth, now you can literally go down to space.

Now if only we had an expert driller on hand... where is Bruce Willis when you need him?

Like Lightcraft or Fusion rockets? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28411467)

I stumbled across a study not so long ago that did just what the Augustine panel's attempting to do now.

http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA426465&Location=U2&doc=GetTRDoc.pdf

Perhaps a combined lightcraft / bussard fusion rocket could be the way to go?

Mass driver (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28411487)

If we're going to be blowing away massive amounts of money how about a mass driver? At least it's reusable.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mass_driver

Not in the USA? (1)

mac1235 (962716) | more than 5 years ago | (#28412191)

Mass drivers work best on or near the equator. This is why me and my army of robots will take over Australia, not the USA!

Politically Unattractive? (3, Insightful)

solios (53048) | more than 5 years ago | (#28411517)

Politically unattractive is the idea of depending on the Soyuz to get to the ISS while we continue to develop a new launch vehicle that by any reasonable metric should be done by now.

I'm a huge fan of the Russian space program, but I also feel that it's a matter of national pride to have our own crew launch vehicle(s). If NASA is incapable and commercial interests can step up, then let's go with commercial interests - bidding out to American companies means it's still an American project; an American "win."

What's more attractive - sending US Astronauts into space on a SpaceX or Scaled Composites launch vehicle, or bidding for space on a Soyuz launch (at over $40 million a seat) while bureaucrats continue to insist Ares/Orion will work?

Amazing, isn't it? (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413279)

The pols that are fighting against SpaceX and even ULA, are the ones that pushing for Russian launches. Why? Because EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM ARE WORRIED ABOUT JOBS IN THEIR AREA. They would rather ignore what is happening to America, ignore the issues of depending on a country that is NOT our best friend, to protect a few measly jobs.

It is a sad state of affairs that the west has become.

Re:Amazing, isn't it? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414279)

The pols that are fighting against SpaceX and even ULA, are the ones that pushing for Russian launches. Why? Because EVERY LAST ONE OF THEM ARE WORRIED ABOUT JOBS IN THEIR AREA. They would rather ignore what is happening to America, ignore the issues of depending on a country that is NOT our best friend, to protect a few measly jobs.

Yup, this pretty much sums up the problem. Even if having a vibrant commercial space transportation industry would benefit their congressional district in the long term, if it means fewer NASA jobs in their district in the short term they fight against it tooth and nail.

Re:Politically Unattractive? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28413923)

What's more attractive - sending US Astronauts into space on a SpaceX or Scaled Composites launch vehicle, or bidding for space on a Soyuz launch (at over $40 million a seat) while bureaucrats continue to insist Ares/Orion will work?

Are you asking what's more attractive to and better for America in general, or what's more attractive to senators from congressional districts where the Ares/Orion will be built?

NASA presentation ignored committee's objectives (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28414263)

For those unfamiliar, the White House panel (the "Augustine Commission" on human spaceflight plans) was given the following objectives in their charter [nasa.gov] :

The Committee shall conduct an independent review of ongoing U.S. human space flight plans and programs, as well as alternatives, to ensure the Nation is pursuing the best trajectory for the future of human space flight â" one that is safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable. The Committee should aim to identify and characterize a range of options that spans the reasonable possibilities for continuation of U.S. human space flight activities beyond retirement of the Space Shuttle. The identification and characterization of these options should address the following objectives:

a) expediting a new U.S. capability to support utilization of the International Space Station (ISS);

b) supporting missions to the Moon and other destinations beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO);

c) stimulating commercial space flight capability; and

d) fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities.

Unfortunately, as the "Restore the Vision" blog notes, while the presentations by SpaceX and ULA (maker of the EELVs) addressed these issues, NASA's Constellation presentation largely ignoring these objectives:

http://restorethevision.blogspot.com/2009/06/thoughts-on-june-17-human-space-flight.html [blogspot.com]

On "expediting a new U.S. capability to support utilization of the International Space Station (ISS)", the Constellation presentation was silent. It mentioned having ISS crew transport by 2015, the current goal, and how they'd made changes to improve confidence they'd meet that date (eg: reducing initial crew size to 4 on ISS missions). However, "expedite" doesn't mean "increase confidence you'll make the current late date". It means "accelerate the process or progress of : speed up". The presentation doesn't suggest any ways to have Ares/Orion ready for ISS transport by, say, 2013, nor does it suggest any ways to have any other U.S. system ready by that time.

Even former NASA Administrator Griffin always claimed that Ares/Orion was only meant as a backup for ISS support, and commercial transportation services were the intended route. Thus the natural inclination should be for NASA management to encourage commercial services to take on that role. The Constellation presentation could have suggested a COTS-D or similar competition for human transportation services, or some other means to get commercial vendors working on basic ISS transportation. Then Constellation could concentrate on the Moon and Beyond. Alternately, the presentation could have suggested ways to alter Ares/Orion to be ready by 2013. It did neither.

On "stimulating commercial space flight capability", again the Constellation presentation was silent. It has a line about "promoting international and commercial participation in exploration", but no details on what that participation is. Where is this participation in the plan? The original goal of the Vision for Space Exploration was for launch support to be done commercially, except perhaps for heavy lift, if needed. Where is that in the plan? The presentation didn't suggest that any of the components of the Constellation architecture be implemented commercially. There's a picture on "Future Exploration Capabilities" with an Ares V linked to some "Commercial and Civil LEO" spacecraft, but what commercial activity is going to be launched by Ares V? There's a slide on "Economic Impact: Contractor" and others on billions of dollars of prime contract value (as if high cost is a virtue), but that's not commercial, it's government contracts. If a contractor is going to sell commercial services enabled by its government contracts, I'm willing to call that commercial, but how much of this Constellation contract work fits that description?

One gets the impression that commercial services are left for some distant future generation, after Constellation has become operational and the NASA base is constructed. Then, if the future NASA is so inclined, there might be some room for a little commercial supply to give NASA some room to work towards Mars.

Finally, on "fitting within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities", the Constellation presentation is once again silent. There are notes about how "development and operations costs must be minimized", how life cycle costs are reduced, and so on, but the point isn't whether or not Constellation is straining really hard to reduce costs. The key question is: Does Constellation fit within the current budget profile? The budget profile is what it is. If, as former NASA Administrator Griffin has suggested, Constellation doesn't fit within the current budget profile for NASA exploration activities, Constellation needs to change to fit, or be replaced. Either show that you fit the profile, or what changes will allow you to fit the profile. The Constellation presentation didn't do that.

Fitting the current budget profile is a key point. All sorts of trends suggest that the budget will continue to be difficult for NASA exploration in the years ahead, just as was often noted by many commentators starting in 2005. Note the wider political, budget, and demographic trends. Note the charter of the Human Spaceflight Review Committee, which opens up a real possibility of shifting exploration resources from Constellation proper to ISS support after 2016, expediting ISS support (shrinking the gap), and R&D plus robotic exploration activities that complement astronaut exploration. There's a lot of justification for these potential budget shifts, so it's important for the astronaut transport plan to fit within a budget that allows a sufficient amount of such actitivies. Fitting the current budget profile is just a start in that direction.

In contrast to the Constellation presentation, the EELV presentation addresses the central HSR key objectives head on, showing how it can fit the budget, expedite ISS support, implement Moon missions, and work commercially. It would be interesting to see if the ULA is willing to put "skin in the game" and also to not get funding until milestones are reached, similar to the COTS A-C arrangement.

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