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NASA Hedges Their Bets On Return To Moon

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 5 years ago | from the never-win-big-from-playing-it-safe dept.

NASA 205

With budget cuts in the works for everyone these days, NASA has decided to float an alternate plan for returning to the moon that is just a little bit cheaper than the current proposal. Of course, the new option would be very reminiscent of the old Apollo space capsule instead of the tricked out shuttle currently planned. "Officially, the space agency is still on track with a 4-year-old plan to spend $35 billion to build new rockets and return astronauts to the moon in several years. However, a top NASA manager is floating a cut-rate alternative that costs around $6.6 billion. This cheaper option is not as powerful as NASA's current design with its fancy new rockets, the people-carrying Ares I and cargo-lifting Ares V. But the cut-rate plan would still get to the moon."

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Oh please (5, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592595)

Sigh, they're not hedging their bets. Shannon thought it was interesting, so his team studied it. That's all. This is what people at NASA do. It's their job.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDGBxP3rYWw [youtube.com]

"It is a small effort, it hasn't been looked at across NASA, because we already have a plan: Constellation. I think we should fund the plan."

The point of Shannon's presentation was to say exactly what he says at the beginning of that video. NASA is *always* looking at *all* the options and the DIRECT people are just, simply, wrong; that's why no-one is interested in their shit. Not because there is some great big conspiracy to quash their option.. but because the mission requires a Saturn class or bigger vehicle. NASA has been given the mission to return astronauts to the surface of the Moon, use in-situ resources and stay there permanently.. then move on to Mars. You're not going to land an outpost on the Moon with a 70mt launcher, and you're definitely not going to go to Mars with that.

Re:Oh please (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592683)

Sigh, they're not hedging their bets.

I think it would be quite sensible for them if they were studying alternative plans. Surely redundancy is simply sound engineering principle? It's something that the shuttle never had either, and look what happened the two times they had to be taken out of service.

Re:Oh please (4, Informative)

Mr. Freeman (933986) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592947)

Redundancy in engineering is multiple ETL lines, multiple shaped charges, (you'd be suprised how many explosives seperation devices are in the new system) multiple computers, etc. Redundancy in engineering is NOT proceeding on two similar projects at the same time.

Re:Oh please (2, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593043)

You're right, the codeword for that is "assured access to space" :)

COTS-D will provide that.. assuming it ever gets the funding. My personal opinion is that NASA is waiting for Orbital Sciences to pull their finger out.

Re:Oh please (1)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593563)

To some degree, (at the subsystem level), it is.

Remember Ariane 5? It blew up because the flight computers were all the exact same design and running the same software. Having your triply redundant flight computers come from different design teams fed with the exact same requirements helps a lot to avoid that kind of failure.

That said, this approach to redundancy does NOT scale up to multiple launch vehicle designs with the same goals... That would be stupid, since if one LV fails, people are still dead.

Re:Oh please (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593857)

That said, this approach to redundancy does NOT scale up to multiple launch vehicle designs with the same goals... That would be stupid, since if one LV fails, people are still dead.

Sure it does. My bet is that you can't find a single fatal accident in a manned space vehicle (in space or on the ground) where the deaths of people were the most significant loss. When you start getting into missions that are assembled with multiple launches by two or more different vehicle types, one of the things that stands out is that crews are replaceable. If a crew dies in a launch accident with one vehicle, you can switch to a second launch platform and a second crew and keep the mission going. With a single vehicle and NASA's traditional couple years of soul searching after fatal accidents, that mission would automatically be scuttled (unless you have a mission that can survive two years in space unattended until NASA resumes the launching of crews). This is why we still have an International Space Station in space. The Soyuz and Proton were able to take over from the Shuttle and keep the ISS supplied and crewed during the 2003-2005 downtime.

Re:Oh please (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593775)

Redundancy in engineering is NOT proceeding on two similar projects at the same time.

Sure it is. Just replace the word "projects" with the word "subsystems". A launch vehicle is not an end, but a means to an end. It is a subsystem just like ETL lines or a seperation device.

The Shuttle demonstrates the problems with a single launch vehicle. For example, from the Challenger accident, the Shuttle was down for two years and at a reduced flight schedule for a couple more years. The Shuttle lost two big customers, the Department of Defense and commercial satellite owners. Now it may be that having redundant launch vehicles is too expensive, but the choice of how many launch vehicles to have is part of engineering too.

Re:Oh please (2, Interesting)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593803)

> Redundancy in engineering is NOT proceeding on two similar projects at the same time.

This isn't engineering, this is aerospace. In this case they almost always build two designs and select one. For instance, the F-35 was selected from the X-32 and X-35.

In every other case I can think of, at least two designs are presented and one goes to metal. For Apollo, Nova and Saturn were both serious contenders, and the final decision was based on factory capacity, not technical issues. In the case of the Shuttle, North American and McD designs both went right up to the final decision, and Grumman was kicked out only in the late stages.

This all-eggs-in-one-basket approach is actually highly unusual for the aerospace industry, at least in terms of government funded projects. Consider that they funded both Delta and Atlas, precisely to ward off ending up with nothing if the one they selected came in too heavy - precisely what's happening with Constellation.

Maury

Re:Oh please (1)

ab8ten (551673) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593151)

Well, then we're not going anywhere. NASA cannot *afford* a Saturn V class vehicle with its current budget. That budget is not going to increase any time soon. Therefore, we have to get the best for our money. That means Shuttle-C or DIRECT. Ares 5 is just too big for the infrastructure we have.

This was the best quote by one of the Mercury 7 (1)

p51d007 (656414) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593695)

When asked by a reporter, if anything about space flight scared him, one astronaut responded... "The only thing that bothers me is I'm sitting on top of something that was built by the LOWEST bidder. When NASA cuts costs, the safety margins go down.

Re:Oh please (3, Informative)

Maury Markowitz (452832) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593731)

> NASA is *always* looking at *all* the options and the DIRECT people are just, simply, wrong;

Uhhh, ok.

> but because the mission requires a Saturn class or bigger vehicle

A vehicle that already exists in the majority, and the part that doesn't is much smaller than even Ares I . THAT'S the difference between DIRECT and Ares. Complaining about "their shit" and failing to mention this point is either bad politics or the height of stupidity.

Maury

meh.... (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592599)

why not just outsource it to China....

Outsource it (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592613)

You know it makes sense. India or China could do it much cheaper. I'm sure they will be more than happy to stick a Stars and Stripes flag on the moon for you. And from this distance you won't even be able to see the 'Made in China' stamp on the flag.

Re:Outsource it (2, Funny)

clickclickdrone (964164) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593261)

At least you'd be assured of a half decent takaway meal when you got there.

Yeah (0, Offtopic)

coryking (104614) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593491)

Yes, the Lunar Kung Pao Chicken is out of this world!

Re:Yeah (2, Funny)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593761)

yes but the atmosphere leaves something to be desired

Re:Outsource it (1)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593311)

Bah. India and China are soooo last year. Outsource it to the Czech Republic, Puerto Rico, or Brazil. I hear the Elbonians [dilbert.com] will work for pennies on the dollar.

Re:Outsource it (2, Interesting)

CastrTroy (595695) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593409)

The Americans have already been to the moon. I find it sad that they managed to do the entire Apollo program [wikipedia.org] for somewhere between 20 and 25 million (135 billion in 2005 dollars), when they had to develop completely new technology. Why can't they just rebuild the Apollo rockets. Did they lose the plans along with the moon landing tapes? Going to the moon should have been figured out by now. We don't need any new technologies to accomplish this. Just reuse old designs.

Re:Outsource it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28593489)

The Americans have already been to the moon. I find it sad that they managed to do the entire Apollo program [wikipedia.org] for somewhere between 20 and 25 million (135 billion in 2005 dollars), when they had to develop completely new technology. Why can't they just rebuild the Apollo rockets. Did they lose the plans along with the moon landing tapes? Going to the moon should have been figured out by now. We don't need any new technologies to accomplish this. Just reuse old designs.

So where are you going to source the millions of parts required for a 40-year-old rocket design?

Re:Outsource it (2, Interesting)

Andy Dodd (701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593601)

Obsolescence. Many of the parts used in those old designs are no longer available, and it would cost far more to try and get those production lines spooled up (probably 3/4 of the production lines used to make electronic components for the old Apollo series computers are now EPA Superfund sites...) than to create a completely new design.

Re:Outsource it (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28593935)

we never had the plans in the first place, as the contractors kept them to keep costs down, and then went out of business. also, most of the people who worked in that era are now retired, so NASA is generally reverse engineering the items they kept in storage with no documentation

thought (-1, Troll)

carrol123 (1582975) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592621)

Nice thought. Carrol spncr Hot to Evercleanse [themastercleanse.org] URL Text or Anchor Text:

Re:thought (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28593217)

I wouldn't outsource a project to India unless I wanted it to fail, and I would really like to see us get back to the Moon.

Getting TO the moon is easy (4, Interesting)

MosesJones (55544) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592627)

I love the idea that this is some how shocking.

"NASA investigates other options and doesn't look at problem in blinkered and myopic way" - News at 11.

NASA always looks at these ideas and then normally decides that either the risk profile is too high (the most impressive thing about the first moon landings were the LACK of deaths) or that it just doesn't stack up as something that will deliver the overall objectives.

Hell in theory a great big Trebuchet could get someone to the moon, pretty one way mission though. The challenge here is to get someone to the moon, return them safely to earth and to establish a base on the moon. This is a HUGE challenge and one where a government agency has to do so at levels of safety that a commercial organisation wouldn't bother to meet.

When people bitch and moan about the price then that is fair enough, but please lets be honest here. Getting to the moon remains a HARD problem, the Chinese are going to take a long bunch of years to get there, and you can't solve hard problems with CostCo models. Either the aim is to go to the moon or not. The price comes from the aim and ambition not because NASA act like congress after pork.

Re:Getting TO the moon is easy (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592649)

NASA always looks at these ideas and then normally decides that either the risk profile is too high (the most impressive thing about the first moon landings were the LACK of deaths)...

The Apollo porgram lost three astronaunts.

Re:Getting TO the moon is easy (3, Insightful)

frying_fish (804277) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592679)

NASA always looks at these ideas and then normally decides that either the risk profile is too high (the most impressive thing about the first moon landings were the LACK of deaths)...

The Apollo porgram lost three astronaunts.

Which I think shows the point of the OP quite well. That considered is quite a lack of death really given what they were doing.

Re:Getting TO the moon is easy (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28593343)

Indeed, 3 out of some 40 people, and over half a dozen landings on the moon, the only fatalities were on the ground. Good job.

Re:Getting TO the moon is easy (4, Interesting)

infolation (840436) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593959)

According to Aldrin and others, the general concensus was the first landing's chances were 50:50.

Re-reading the recent influx of 40th annivesary articles about the Appollo program, on every level the success of the moon landings seems absolutely incredible. The more I read, the more my mind boggles at how touch-and-go the whole escapade was. Just watching the LLRV test flights [youtube.com] makes me wonder what the hell was going through their minds at a time when they didn't even know what the surface of the moon was made of.

The more you investigate this subject, the more you realise that modern technology doesn't contribute that much to this gargantuan task. It's just brains, ideas and some sort of test-pilot 6th sense.

Re:Getting TO the moon is easy (3, Interesting)

theIsovist (1348209) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592839)

Hell in theory a great big Trebuchet could get someone to the moon...

While I agree it's a great acheivement to get people to the moon AND back, I think you're understating the challenge of hitting an object 382500 km away and moving at 3600 km/h relative to the earth. That's not a bet I'd like to take.

Re:Getting TO the moon is easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592899)

It's also a pretty big target on a known trajectory. Aiming the thing would be the easy part; decelerating once in the moon's gravity well and in the right orientation not to kill everyone is a bit harder with a ballistic lander. Interesting thought experiment though...

Re:Getting TO the moon is easy (2, Interesting)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592929)

Aiming the thing would be the easy part; decelerating once in the moon's gravity well and in the right orientation not to kill everyone is a bit harder with a ballistic lander.

I think either the acceleration from the trebuchet or the subsequent burning up in the atmosphere on the way up would make decelerating into moon orbit a moot point.

Unless, of course, your trebuchet is several kilometers high and you can clear most of the atmosphere while being accelerated by the thing.

Hm. I wonder if we'll ever see an electro-magnetic launch system. It'd be a megaconstruction, but just think about the advantages like the efficiency of electromagnetic propulsion or the simple fact that the payload doesn't need to lug all the fuel around.

Re:Getting TO the moon is easy (1, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593467)

There is probably even a guy proposing they just dust off the old set and fake it again. It's win-win. It would save money and give Michael Bay something to do besides making crappy summer action movies.

Re:Getting TO the moon is easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28593597)

Umm...you don't know NASA very well do you???

NASA *IS* one giant pork program. NASA hasn't met a cost estimate it could not go over.

Seriously, do some research before you mouth off. Then you will realize how much waste has been going on.

Oh and another thing....WE'VE ALREADY BEEN TO THE MOON!!

Going back is a giant waste of time & money and accomplishes nothing. Noone is clamoring to go back to the moon. As before any real scientific value can be gained by using probes and satellites. Sending humans gains nothing and increases the risk to human life.

It's amazing how the science illiterate swallow this garbage.

Re:Getting TO the moon is easy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28593821)

senator mccain, it's time for your sponge bath

Earth or Lunar orbit? (4, Interesting)

gadget junkie (618542) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592635)

James Michener, the writer, was also on the NASA advisory board, and in his fiction Space [wikipedia.org] , there are a few pages on the conflict in the planning stage between the Earth orbit faction, in which the base module would orbit Earth and the lander would go to the Moon surface and back, and the Lunar orbit faction, whose design was more efficient and eventually won.
One of the characters says that by doing that the US had foregone the availability of a space station. It is interesting that the fallback plan goes in that direction, because it could be relatively easy to have the cargo craft double as a lorry to the ISS.

Re:Earth or Lunar orbit? (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592665)

Lunar orbit rendezvous was the only way to get the job done in the time available. Not withstanding the commitment from JFK the money would have run out if they had built skylab before Apollo 11.

Um, why? (1, Troll)

hoarier (1545701) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592639)

Why send people? (The article doesn't explain.) 6.6 G$ would indeed be less than I'd wildly guess it would cost to send humans; but it's still a lot of moolah, and presumably a lot of that would be for a human-required payload. How about devoting just one measly little gigabuck to robot design, and then sending robots instead?

Re:Um, why? (1, Troll)

squoozer (730327) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592691)

I couldn't agree with you more. Sending humans to the moon just seems to be a willy waving exercise presumably to impress the Chinese. To be honest I'm not sure that going back to the moon is all that useful at all at the moment. There are far more interesting moons that we could be sending probes too.

About this point in the discussion of the space program we see the people who think we need to get the human race off this planet so that if / when something bad happens to Earth we have a "backup" for our species. They, of course, have not the slightest clue how difficult (probably impossible with current technology) it would be to live on the Moon or Mars. Just look at the attempts humans made at colonizing the Americas and Australia - it didn't go well at first and those places had air, water, soil, animals etc.

Re:Um, why? (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592759)

They, of course, have not the slightest clue how difficult (probably impossible with current technology) it would be to live on the Moon or Mars.

That's exactly the mission NASA has been tasked with: figure out how to live off the Moon, and then Mars.

As for the question of Why, well that's also been addressed. "We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills." [wikisource.org] If you want to know what a America would look like without NASA, just take one look at my country, Australia. If you train to be an aeronautical engineer here you might as well start looking for a job overseas at graduation time.. cause our aerospace industry is non-existent. That has knock-on effects in every other industry.

NASA == high tech and there's no higher tech than manned space flight. The challenge is the journey and the destination.

Re:Um, why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28593035)

NASA == high tech and there's no higher tech than manned space flight. The challenge is the journey and the destination.

I'm not sure I agree with that statement. Space hardware is very conservative, and not leading edge. You generally send proven stuff into space, not new stuff.

Re:Um, why? (2, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593059)

umm.. everything on the Shuttle set the state of the art. More information than you ever wanted to know: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiYhQtGpRhc [youtube.com]

Enjoy.

Re:Um, why? (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592705)

Because robots are completely incapable of doing the task.

The fantastic work of Spirit and Opportunity could have been done by a competent field geologist in an afternoon.. remember that is the ultimate goal of the VSE, put humans on Mars by learning how to support them permanently on the Moon.

Re:Um, why? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592747)

Well then make better robots - it'll still cost less than trying to support humans in space - even a Mars mission would be a truly ludicrous sum of money to *actually* do.

Re:Um, why? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592773)

Well, but we are also incapable to send humans to mars either.

I guess the question is whether to spend all that money on human mission or on better robots.

I believe that spending them on robots is much better option, in long term. Humanity needs to move into space; we cannot do that without advanced technology/robotics anyway.

Re:Um, why? (4, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592821)

Sorry, what? I must have missed the part where the necessary hardware to build super intelligent robots was invented 40 years ago and then left out in the rain.

No new science is needed to put humans on Mars. It's an engineering challenge that we can plan out and do. With a sufficiently interested public it could be done in 10 years. It'll most likely take 25 instead.

On the other hand, we've been fiddling around with AI for over 50 years and have no freakin' idea how far we have to go. So far we can't even make a robot with the same capabilities as a 18 month old toddler.

Re:Um, why? (4, Funny)

GweeDo (127172) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593121)

Your 18 month old has an oven in it?

Re:Um, why? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592725)

6.6 G$

6.6 GoogleSoft?

I remember when people were taught to put the currency symbol before the number, and to use "m" or "b" to denote millions or billions. "$6.6b", simples.

Re:Um, why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592939)

Actually.. m = one/thousand, M = million (or 10^20, depending on context) .. at least that's how it goes here with SI units, you imperialists might have it different..

Re:Um, why? (4, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592771)

Why people... Let's see. The ultimate goal of the program, as stated by Pres. Bush, is to put a man on Mars.

Using the most energetic path we have available, Mars is over 3 months away. Assuming the nuclear power plant is out, then the time to Mars is closer to 9 months with an ion/vasimr engine; or, 18 months coasting.

IF you're going to send people to Mars, it seems like a good idea to test your equipment and get some practical experience living in a little (Mars) or no (Moon) atmosphere, low gravity, high incident solar radiation environment with dust that can best be described using the word "evil". If you can help it, you want to do this as close to help as possible in case something goes wrong. The Moon is 3 days from Earth.

Now someone is about to post the comment whose premise is "The Moon is NOT Mars!" I'm aware of that. So is NASA. Mars has a toxic atmosphere (0.01% Earth pressure, primarily CO2). Mars has water vapor, condensation, and ice, all of which affect equipment and all of which the Moon lacks. Martian dust is not Lunar dust (you could argue Lunar dust is more evil). Martian gravity (1/3G) is higher than Lunar gravity (1/6G). There's still a lot of commonality, enough to gain valuable experience testing equipment and methodologies. It would not be much help to our astronauts if we send them to Mars with equipment that fails within hours, or send them with a survival plan that's unworkable. Especially if those problems could have been found with a little testing.

For what it's worth, I think we will get to Mars; but, it's going to be 30 to 50 years, not the 20-25 former Pres. Bush was arguing for.

Re:Um, why? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592797)

Amazing - so because a mad president wanted to grab a bit of old-school glory, NASA should commit to vast spends for idealistically naive projects and, presumably, reduce the pile of money available for actual research in the process? I shudder to think how many probes could be sent to Mars for the price of a single human being.

Re:Um, why? (3, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592869)

I shudder to think how many probes could be sent to Mars for the price of a single human being.

Did you also think about how much more successful a human being could be in dealing with the little problems that pop up during a mission, like getting clumpy soil samples into an analyzer or getting stuck in the sand?

Not to mention being able to move a few miles per day, not per year.

Re:Um, why? (2, Insightful)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593061)

I'm sorry, you're being naive. Why do you think the probes are looking for water? The probe doesn't need water... life does. so, the probes are 1.) looking for evidence of microbial life and 2.) looking for what we need when we send people there. It's as much about the future manned missions as it is about, what you are calling, "actual research." At some point you are going to reach the limits of what can be done with a robotic probe and be forced to send a person there in order to continue the research.

Re:Um, why? (3, Informative)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592845)

Mars has a toxic atmosphere (0.01% Earth pressure, primarily CO2).

Err ... the atmosphere of Mars is hardly toxic. The partial pressure of CO2 isn't anywhere near levels required for toxicity. Of course, it doesn't contain oxygen in the partial pressure range required by humans, but that makes it about as toxic as breathing a mix of 99.9% Nitrogen and 0.1% CO2. Fatal, yes, but not because of anything toxic in the gas mixture.

If you want toxic, try everyone's favorite hellhole, Venus. Sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, etc. But of course, if you happen land on Venus, toxic compounds in the atmosphere are going to be the least of your worries.

Re:Um, why? (2, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592991)

I understood this -- I guess I was just oversimplifying. I wouldn't want anyone to think you could simply compress the Martian atmosphere to breathable pressures and go -- that would, in fact, be toxic. I got the pressure wrong, by the way. It's ~0.01atm = ~1% Earth sea-level pressure = ~600 Pa = ~0.13 psia at Mars mean ground elevation. (Haven't had my coffee yet) Given that the absolute pressure on Mars is so low, you have a lot more to worry about than the CO2, if you know what I mean.

Re:Um, why? (1)

giorgist (1208992) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593329)

Yea, all those sex crazed irrational women are a concern

Re:Um, why? (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593973)

Using the most energetic path we have available, Mars is over 3 months away.

I've heard three weeks not three months. Even the Hohmann trajectory [newmars.com] for Earth to Mars is 8.6 months. That can be achieved with chemical propulsion. Something like a solar powered ion drive, that doesn't need to stop accelerating might cut even more time off. All your times seem too long.

Do it well or don't do it at all (5, Interesting)

MacAnkka (1172589) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592667)

We don't need another Apollo-like mission to the moon. We've already done those enough. It's just going to cost money without any substantial new information. The next mission to the moon should be bigger and a lot different from what we have done before. Either have the balls to commit yourselves and the money to something meaningful or don't do it at all. I'd also like to point out that the moon isn't going anywhere in the near future. If a meaningful mission would cost too much now, there's no shame in waiting for the technology to became more mature.

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (1)

Canazza (1428553) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592699)

The next mission to the moon should be bigger and a lot different from what we have done before.

Like setting up a colony?

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592763)

Like flying around on rocket powered pogo sticks

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (2, Interesting)

turing_m (1030530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593087)

Bingo. The ultimate goal should be a colony that is capable of growing without further input of matter or energy from earth. In the interim a base would be necessary to sort out the bugs and get proof of concept. There are probably many other things that can generate the know-how on earth for a fraction of the price.

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (2, Funny)

Nutria (679911) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593853)

Bingo. The ultimate goal should be a colony that is capable of growing without further input of matter or energy from earth. In the interim a base would be necessary to sort out the bugs and get proof of concept. There are probably many other things that can generate the know-how on earth for a fraction of the price.

The Moon

  • is a desert with fine, sticky (from static electricity) dust,
  • has daily temperature swings from 150 degrees Celsius below the freezing point of CO2 to 23 degrees Celsius above the boiling point of water,
  • has zero atmospheric pressure, so a single tiny tear in your space suit is pretty much a death sentence,
  • is constantly bombarded by cosmic rays, meaning that space suits need to be lined in enough lead to protect you from unforseen solar storms and coronal mass ejections.

Colonizing such a region is about THE STUPIDEST IDEA I could ever imagine. It's why we've never colonized Antarctica or Death Valley.

Science fiction is great, and some of it inspires the creation of real technology, but some ideas are destined to remain fiction.

Unless there's some huge breakthrough in power generation. Which might happen, but I'm not holding my breath...

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (0, Troll)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592711)

A flight to Titan in ten years would be about as difficult as going to the moon in 1965. Sometimes it can be hard to get relatively easy projects off the ground because the return is too small. I think the next mission should go to Titan. Don't go back to the moon. Its been done.

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (3, Insightful)

pedestrian crossing (802349) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592799)

A flight to Titan in ten years would be about as difficult as going to the moon in 1965.

What, did the distance to Titan shrink in thae last 45 years? There are many orders of magnitude of difference in the complexity of sustaining astronauts for a one-week journey vs. getting them (alive) to some place as far away as Titan. It's nice to have ambition, but the the laws of physics are a motherfucker.

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592925)

...the laws of physics are a motherfucker.

Do you sell T-shirts or bumper stickers?

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593049)

Yes, life support is an issue, but we now have almost 40 years of experience in operating space platforms and I reckon the state of the art has advanced enough to consider a very long mission.

Energy supply is the biggest problem out around Saturn so we would have to lose our phobia about operating fission reactors in space. Ion drives have very high specific impulse. With enough power it should be able to push a manned spacecraft. I also think we should look into building a hybrid fission/ion drive. In theory you could go:

Fission -> electricity -> ion propulsion

But since a lot of the energy in an ion drive is used to ionise the reaction mass, and since fission reactors are so good at ionising things I suggest we look at directly ionising xenon with gamma rays.

Anyway I think it is worth doing. Imagine how hard the lunar flight must have seemed in 1960.

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593331)

Energy supply is the biggest problem out around Saturn so we would have to lose our phobia about operating fission reactors in space. Ion drives have very high specific impulse. With enough power it should be able to push a manned spacecraft. I also think we should look into building a hybrid fission/ion drive. In theory you could go:

The problem here is shielding. If you stick a fission reactor on an unmanned craft, you can get away with much less shielding than if you stick it on a manned craft. And with more shielding comes more weight.

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (2, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593523)

Energy supply is the biggest problem out around Saturn so we would have to lose our phobia about operating fission reactors in space. Ion drives have very high specific impulse. With enough power it should be able to push a manned spacecraft. I also think we should look into building a hybrid fission/ion drive. In theory you could go:

The problem here is shielding. If you stick a fission reactor on an unmanned craft, you can get away with much less shielding than if you stick it on a manned craft. And with more shielding comes more weight.

I would use the classic Discovery 1 configuration. Put the reactors and engines out on a truss. The primary radiation shield only has to stop radiation which would reach the hab module. Secondary shielding would be the water stored in the walls of the hab module. But I agree that shielding would be a real challenge.

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593577)

Doesn't sound interesting to me. I mean, people have been to moons before. Been there done that. I think we should go to the Sun next. Nobody's even thinking about doing that right now. It'd be pretty hard core. Screw that. The Sun is too puny. Let's go to a really big star like Eta Carinae [wikipedia.org] . It's only 7500-8000 light-years away. I think in a really tricked out spaceship, we can fly that in no time. Bring plenty of brew and your best skateboards!

Hmmmm.... (2, Insightful)

coryking (104614) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593631)

A flight to Titan in ten years would be about as difficult as going to the moon in 1965

I think Brooks of The Mythical Man-Month fame has a name for that--"The Second System Effect". Rather than paraphrase, I'll just quote the book:

An architect's first work is apt to be spare and clean. He knows he doesn't know what he's doing, so he does it carefully and with great restraint.

As he designs the first work, frill after frill and embellishment after embellishment occur to him. These get stored away to be used "next time." Sooner or later the first system is finished, and the architect, with firm confidence and a demonstrated mastery of that class of systems, is ready to build a second system.

This second is the most dangerous system a man ever designs. When he does his third and later ones, his prior experiences will confirm each other as to the general characteristics of such systems, and their differences will identify those parts of his experience that are particular and not generalizable.

The general tendency is to over-design the second system, using all the ideas and frills that were cautiously sidetracked on the first one. The result, as Ovid says, is a "big pile."

Frederick P. Brooks, Jr.
The Mythical Man-Month

Does this parallel? Dunno. But it might.

PS: Slashdot needs to support unicode. Sheesh.

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (4, Insightful)

icebrain (944107) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592847)

If a meaningful mission would cost too much now, there's no shame in waiting for the technology to became more mature.

But you must also remember that technology doesn't just mature on your own, especially if it's something specialized. If this were a matter of computing power or technology, for example, you actually could just wait, since there are enough other pressures driving its development to keep it moving. But things like deep-space propulsion, closed-cycle life support systems, and vacuum-qualified hardware are pretty specific to the space industry; if you don't pay to keep developing them, they won't mature.

And even then, you'll still need to use them and test them on occasion. Doing so probably involves flying some kind of mission. And if you're going to be doing that, you might as well accomplish other stuff on that mission, like, oh, land on the moon.

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (5, Insightful)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592915)

Yes, exactly. All those people who talk about how freakin' pointless the ISS was will completely forget about everything that was learnt about living safely in a vacuum when we start permanently living on the Moon. Then when people are saying how pointless the permanently manned outpost on the Moon is, they'll say the ISS was doing the really important research that we needed for a Mars transit mission. Then when the astronauts land on Mars those same people will say that, actually, it was all the research NASA did into making better aircraft and studying biconic aerodynamics that mattered. Then they'll say, no, no, it actually *was* all that research that was done on the Moon that is now being used to build a Mars base.. wow, it's so obvious now! Then they'll discover life on Mars and go, shit, I guess those 4 independent instruments on Viking that said there was life in the Mars soil actually were right - guess we wasted years of effort to discover what we already knew but were unwilling to accept. But by then it'll be too late, suckers!

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (3, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592953)

All those people who talk about how freakin' pointless the ISS was will completely forget about everything that was learnt about living safely in a vacuum when we start permanently living on the Moon.

Add the latest Hubble maintenance mission to the list. That was an exercise in doing repairs while in space, without the dire consequences (apart from a few hundred million bucks) if it failed.

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (2, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593017)

Oh yeah, it also showed how completely ridiculous the idea of on-orbit assembly remains. I'd love it if it wasn't true. We could launch up parts, assemble them into some giant battlestar galactica type ship and fly around the solar system in style. But the reality is, just pulling some parts out and putting some new ones in took hours and hours of grueling labor. We really need better suits, with better gloves, and the Moon shot will motivate that.

 

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (2, Insightful)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593323)

But the reality is, just pulling some parts out and putting some new ones in took hours and hours of grueling labor.

Are you talking about Hubble or the ISS now? Hubble was never meant to be serviced in space, that's why it was such a pain in the rear to do so. The ISS was designed to be modular, and they've been quite successful at adding new modules to it.

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (2, Interesting)

the_other_chewey (1119125) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593953)

Hubble was never meant to be serviced in space, that's why it was such a pain in the rear to do so.

But of course it was. The first service mission was planned even before HST launched. The schedule got mixed up
a bit because of the corrective optics that needed to be made, but manned service missions were part of the
design from the beginning. That's one of the reasons why HST's orbit is where it is: As far out as possible
within the constraints of "can still be reached by the Shuttle".

However, some of the things that got fixed/swapped/serviced on this year's mission were indeed not intended
for in-orbit maintenance.

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (5, Insightful)

icebrain (944107) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593539)

And that gets right back to my point: You learn by doing , not by making powerpoint slides.

Go back to the first US spacewalks during the Gemini program. Ed White's wasn't too bad, as he was just floating around and didn't have to try and work on things. But the next couple, where the astronauts were given tasks like remove sample packages and mess with tools, were almost scary--they quickly worked themselves into exhaustion and overheated, making work almost impossible. What everyone thought would be easy and relatively effortless actually wasn't.

Finally, they took all of those lessons and re-figured their approach to spacewalking. Handholds were added, equipment was changed, and the training was revolutionized with the now-standard underwater practice. On Gemini XII, Buzz Aldrin put all of that into practice.

The same thing will happen as we move forward. The lessons learned from the Apollo surface EVAs will be incorporated in the new generation of surface suits. Those currently in use for shuttle EVAs have benefited from years of previous experience capturing satellites and working on Hubble. New tools and work methods build on the ones used before.

So yes, develop your new suits and gloves with feedback from the men and women who use them. Make prototypes, and test them. Build flight-ready ones and have someone try them out in a vacuum chamber. Lather, rinse, repeat. But don't just sit on your butt and expect it to happen from nothing. If you want the tech to improve, you still have to pay for it--and I think that's what so many people are missing.

Go Fever (0, Troll)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593299)

We don't need another Apollo-like mission to the moon. We've already done those enough. It's just going to cost money without any substantial new information

I think the point is that every iteration of Apollo would get cheaper if we kept doing new revisions. I agree that NASA should have more money. I'm a Republican paleoconservative and I have no problem paying the taxes to support NASA. Building up knowledge of space requires practice. I think NASA has missions and the track record that the private sector has yet to match.

We need a 2nd generation shuttle design as well.

And we also desperately need a practical nuclear powered spacecraft.

Re:Do it well or don't do it at all (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28594049)

If a meaningful mission would cost too much now, there's no shame in waiting for the technology to became more mature.

I believe the technology is there. When Niel Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were aboard on Apollo 11, the computer they were using is comparable to a TI-83 today.
We have the knowledge and the tools to get there. It's just a matter of $$.
Rather than throwing gigantic amounts of money at the defense department, try throwing it in research and see how far we can go.

You know where this is going, right? (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592687)

We need to reduce the deficit, even Nasa is facing cuts, so please understand when we start raising taxes. Everyone must pay their part. We are democrats after all.

Re:You know where this is going, right? (1)

DrgnDancer (137700) | more than 5 years ago | (#28594059)

This was George W. Bush's idea, not Obama's. Not that I don't think it's a good idea, it is. Even a blind dog sometimes finds a rabbit. I generally thought Bush was one of our poorer presidents, but his emphasis on space exploration was fine with me. His apparent reasons (a giant international "my penis is bigger than yours" competition) and mine (a desire to see space science and the resultant technology improve) are different, but the I agree with the result.

Foisting this off as "more Democratic Pork" is completely disingenuous. In fact it looks like the Dems may be cutting NASA's budget.

Error in summary? (4, Interesting)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592695)

Of course the new option would be very reminiscent of the old Apollo space capsule instead of the tricked out shuttle currently planned.

Methinks that even the author didn't RTFA... The shuttle-based plan is the new contingiency plan. And both plans would involve the same "Apollo-like" Orion capsules. I guess that if no one else does, then its misguided to even expect authors to RTFA?

The worrying part of this design is that the same orion capsule would be only able to carry 2 astronauts at a time during launch, presumably due to fuel constraints. While the rest of it sounds like a pretty reasonable bet, this bit just makes me think "well what's the point?"

Re:Error in summary? (2, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592889)

It's not a fuel constraint. This "new" Shuttle Derived Heavly Lift Vehicle plan is essentially the Shuttle C cargo-only design that they looked at a few decades back. They've stuck the manned Orion capsule and support module in the cargo container... It simply does not have the lift capacity to put something big enough into trans-lunar orbit. If they cut the crew back to two, and cut all the associated equipment requirements, it barely gets you there. Shuttle hardware was designed to be single stage to orbit. It was never intended to send men to the Moon.

It's so damn simple they can't see the forest for the trees. Ares 1 needs to be cut. It doesn't have the capacity. This was aparent some time ago and they should have looked for alternatives when they saw that. They need to replace it with an existing heavy lift vehicle and expend the effort to man-rate that vehicle. There are plenty of options, the best of which is probably Delta IV Heavy. If we use a common adapter, then the ESA Ariane and Japanese H2 become options with a little further development. In addition, Ares V development needs to continue so we have the cargo lift capacity to get the big stuff to orbit. Of course, this is just my opinion.

Re:Error in summary? (3, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592997)

It'll take 5.5 years to man-rate a Delta IV, and you'll have to pay for the privilege and gift the ULA new launch facilities (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2m-UoOM7eg). Alternately, you could fund COTS-D and have a manned vehicle from SpaceX in 2.5 years (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O81Zq02eStg). If you gifted SpaceX the launch escape system you can have a manned vehicle next year (I totally just made that up, but it makes sense to me). That said, if you cut Ares I now you're cutting Ares V. Ares I is "behind schedule" because they're working on the 5-segment solid stack. Without that the Ares V won't fly either.. so, sooner or later they have to do this work. Hopefully after the Ares I-X flight test (which, btw, will be a 4 segment solid stack, I know, wtf) people will stop armchair quarterbacking and just let NASA do their freakin' job.

Re:Error in summary? (4, Interesting)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593441)

It'll take 5.5 years to man-rate a Delta IV, and you'll have to pay for the privilege and gift the ULA new launch facilities (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2m-UoOM7eg).

5.5 years and paying for the priveledge... Apply that to SpaceX please and tell me how that affects your suggestion. You pay for the priveledge anyway. NASA does not build it's own launch vehicles. Even the shuttle, which is a NASA design, was built and is maintained by an army of contractors. Engines are supplied by Pratt-Whitney Rocketdyne. Boosters by ATK. Tanks by Lockheed-Martin. and so on. For what it's worth, it probably won't take 5.5 years to man-rate a Delta IV. That, in their own words, is a conservative estimate. It could certainly happen faster. It, honestly, could take longer. Yes, ULA launch facilities are inadequate for manned vehicle launch. Existing shuttle facilities won't work for Ares I or Ares V either. Either way, you have to upgrade the facilities you have.

Alternately, you could fund COTS-D and have a manned vehicle from SpaceX in 2.5 years (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O81Zq02eStg). If you gifted SpaceX the launch escape system you can have a manned vehicle next year (I totally just made that up, but it makes sense to me).

SpaceX is clearly well on there way. They have, however, set extremely optimistic schedules and have not done significant work to man-rate the platform or the Dragon module. I fully expect them to be performing their COTS ISS supply mission in the next year or two but I don't put as much faith into their ability to scale up to putting people into LEO as quickly as they say they can. That issue was brought up during the Augustine Commission hearing. Gifting the launch escape system to SpaceX won't work -- it's designed for Orion, not Dragon. It would need to be redesigned for use there. Oh, btw, don't take me to task and then use "just made that up" in your reply

That said, if you cut Ares I now you're cutting Ares V. Ares I is "behind schedule" because they're working on the 5-segment solid stack. Without that the Ares V won't fly either.. so, sooner or later they have to do this work

Ares 1 isn't behind because of the 5-segment stack. It's been ground tested. It works. It's behind because there are vibration issues requiring redesign of the 5-segment stack and interstage. These vibration issues are present in the 4-segment stack as well but are damped by the mass of the shuttle system. These changes are specifically required for the Ares I use and would not affect Ares 5, which I'll get back to... There are also limitations on mass, which have required additional engineering on the Orion and a cut in the number of people carried to LEO. A single booster, while it generates a lot of thrust, has insufficient capability to carry a heavy manned vehicle to LEO. I'm aware that the current Ares V design requires the booster; and, that cutting Ares 1 development moves some of the booster development cost to Ares V. For what it's worth, this applies to your previous suggestion to use SpaceX COTS capability as well. I'm suggesting that using the booster in the Ares I configuration to launch people to LEO is a poor plan. The only big issue here is, what happens if the manufacture of the SSRB's is shut down for a while.

I only wish I was armchair quarterbacking... Never mind.

Re:Error in summary? (2, Funny)

khallow (566160) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593477)

It'll take 5.5 years to man-rate a Delta IV, and you'll have to pay for the privilege and gift the ULA new launch facilities (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i2m-UoOM7eg). Alternately, you could fund COTS-D and have a manned vehicle from SpaceX in 2.5 years (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O81Zq02eStg).

OTOH, with the Delta IV and the ULA, you'll have a manned launch vehicle in 2.5 years, while you might have one in 5.5 years from SpaceX. What? My prediction doesn't agree with your prediction? Well that's the fun of making predictions when you have no information on which to base those predictions.

If only they hadn't spent all their money (2, Funny)

solevita (967690) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592817)

On software licenses [thehumanjourney.net] ... Lower their TCO and get to the Moon? We do these things not because they are easy, but because they are hard.

RyanAir (1)

Linker3000 (626634) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592827)

I understand NASA is going to buy some return tickets from RyanAir - they fly to Moon(ISS) - sure, that's a bit out of town, but there's a shuttle bus for the remainder of the journey and it makes the actual main ticket cost look quite cheap. It may be also be possible to share a ride from ISS to Moon and split the fare.

Just avoid the in-flight food as the prices are a rip-off - best take a few freeze-dried panninis and a carton of orange juice with you.

tester (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592851)

tter tserter this is a test for post in

"Return" to the moon...bah! (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592887)

My favorite part is the "return astronauts to the moon"...as if we were ever Really there in the first place...thanks Mr. Kubrick.

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28592903)

Are we there yet ?, Are we there yet ? ,Are we there yet ?

Re:Obligatory (1)

Ihlosi (895663) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592913)

Are we there yet ?, Are we there yet ? ,Are we there yet ?

Shut up or you can walk the rest of the way.

alternate plan for returning to the moon (2, Funny)

arthurpaliden (939626) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592973)

They will hich a ride with the Chineese.

Grammatical agreement (1)

ChameleonDave (1041178) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592989)

"NASA hedges their bets"? That's strange wording. Either it's just singular ("NASA hedges its bets") or it's treated as a collective ("NASA hedge their bets"). A hybrid sounds weird, as though they were hedging others' bets.

Obligatory: have to really ask (3, Funny)

Fotograf (1515543) | more than 5 years ago | (#28592993)

is it cheaper than just do it again in Hollywood? Probably yes.

Re:Obligatory: have to really ask (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28594039)

It would be far too expensive to do it in Hollywood. You'd have to buy huge tracts of land for the launch apron. You'd have to build a Vehicle Assembly Building and a Launch Pad. You'd have to build a huge reservoir of water to cool the launch pad during launch. There'd be all sorts of safety issues as well, considering that a launch is generally done in a westerly and slightly southerly direction to take advantage of the Earth's rotation. This would mean that any launch debris would fall on some of the most populated areas of the state. Heaven help you if you have to abort. You could have SRB fragments coming down in Los Angeles, or Pasadena. Even if you had a successful launch, your empty SRBs would come down somewhere in the middle of Joshua Tree National Park, an area set aside as a nature reserve. Besides, the SRBs are not designed for a land landing. You'd have to replace them each launch.

Exploading Base Camps (1)

MarcLeeT (1591255) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593013)

Seems like a perfect time to go back, at least with the data from the LRO the chance of a gas eruption blowing up the base camp are much smaller. Lots of different materials can be used from mining the rocks but I did hear that due to how dense areas of the moon are it's feasible to mine the top surface with just a powerful electromagnet. Will search again for references.

NASA is a joke (1)

sc0ob5 (836562) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593259)

Forget the moon. Mars is where it's at.

Tricked out shuttle? (1)

blakedev (1397081) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593505)

Yo dawg we heard you like shuttles so we put a shuttle in yo shuttle so you can fly while you fly.

Summary is wrong (2, Informative)

Caduceus1 (178942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28593609)

The summary is quite incorrect. The current Ares plan has NOTHING to do with a "tricked out shuttle", but is in fact FAR MORE like the Apollo/Saturn program than the cheaper, alternate plan shown in the article. The alternate plan is to utilize a modified form of the Shuttle launch system, but without a shuttle, instead opting to put modules on top of the external tank instead of alongside it. Obviously some sort of engine mount would be needed on the bottom.

Re:Summary is wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28593829)

The article needs to be modded suddenoutbreakofcommonsense

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