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White House Panel Seeks Input On Spaceflight Plans

samzenpus posted more than 5 years ago | from the in-space-nobody-can-hear-you-vote dept.

Space 224

Neil H. writes "The Augustine Commission, commissioned by the White House and NASA to provide an independent review of the current US human spaceflight program and potential new directions, is seeking public input on a document describing the preliminary beyond-LEO exploration scenarios they're analyzing. The destination-based scenarios, designed with NASA's current budget in mind, range from a Lunar Base (essentially NASA's current plan), to 'Mars First' (human exploration of Mars ASAP), to 'Flexible Path' (initially focused on several destinations in shallow gravity wells, such as Lagrange points, near-Earth asteroids, and the Martian moon Phobos). The Commission is also seeking input on the issues of engaging commercial spaceflight, in-space refueling, and coordinating human and robotic exploration."

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Probes. Lots of Probes. (4, Funny)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796033)

So I figure we build a few thousand probe droids with solar sails and sling shot them around the sun and send them aimed at planets of all nearest solar systems [wikipedia.org] . I've got some basic plans drafted up [blueharvest.net] . Couple hundred years from now the first will be hitting Alpha Centauri and although we may all be dead, the footage they send back will make for some bitchin opening movie scenes.

Re:Probes. Lots of Probes. (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796101)

Yeah well my ion drive will still beat your solar sail crap to Alpha Centauri any day. And will be many times easier to steer.

Re:Probes. Lots of Probes. (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796249)

Don't use solar sails. Use nuclear pulse thrusters. Those same probes could be sending back images within our lifetimes.

Re:Probes. Lots of Probes. (3, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796353)

Couple hundred years from now the first will be hitting Alpha Centauri

Not if we play the game with 'bloodlust' turned on.

Re:Probes. Lots of Probes. (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796417)

Dude, this is America! We don't wait for things! Even the 6 months it takes to get to Mars is pushing it...the way our attention span is, we'd probably launch the astronauts to Mars, and then 3 months later some Congresscritter would recommend cutting out this silly "Mars mission" from the budget, because no one even remembers what that was for, and use the money to build a new movie theater in his district (named after him, naturally). They'd lay off everyone at Mission Control, and the astronauts up in their capsule would wonder why no one is answering their transmissions anymore.

Talking about something that would take 200 years? Hell, when Voyager was (briefly) back in the news a couple of years ago, most people probably didn't even know what the hell it was, other than some vague memory in the deep recesses of their brains that it had something to do with Star Trek, much less what it was supposed to be doing out there. 200 years from now, people will probably think the transmissions coming from your proposed spacecraft are from some alien race and freak out.

My prediction is that this whole process results in some pretty exciting plans, which will all be canceled after NASA's budget gets slashed yet again.

Re:Probes. Lots of Probes. (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797003)

A movie theater? C'mon... that kind of budget would be worth at least a minor-league stadium or regional airport or something

Manned Vs Robotic Posterity... (1)

Xin Jing (1587107) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797111)

NASA has showed us some capacity to learn from it's mistakes. Where they recorded over the original moon landing magnetic tapes, they later learned to archive the Voyager transmissions.

Generational Ship (1)

i_ate_god (899684) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796081)

send up a noah ark-esque mission to the nearest solar system and back.

Re:Generational Ship (3, Funny)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796335)

send up a noah ark-esque mission to the nearest solar system and back.

You missed the memo: the whole point of space exploration is to find a way to permanently get rid of our lawyers*, politicians and telemarketers. Having the thing come back would defeat the entire purpose.

*NYCL would be out of a job in a world without lawyers, so he's exempt.

Re:Generational Ship (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796397)

the whole point of space exploration is to find a way to permanently get rid of our lawyers*, politicians and telemarketers

I thought we had firearms and pitchforks for that?

Re:Generational Ship (2, Interesting)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796461)

You missed the memo: the whole point of space exploration is to find a way to permanently get rid of our lawyers*, politicians and telemarketers.

The politicians ARE lawyers. That's why normal people can't understand the laws.

NYCL would be out of a job in a world without lawyers, so he's exempt

He's my third favorite lawyer, right behind the lady I hired to handle my divorce and the man I hired to handle my bankrupcy. When you need a lawyer, you NEED a lawyer.

Lawrence Lessig comes in a close fourth. I was pissed that he screwed up the SCOTUS copyright case, but after reading his book (available online for free, or at your local library or bookstore) I realized that he's fighting the good fight, even if he did lose a major battle.

Re:Generational Ship (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796519)

He's my third favorite lawyer, right behind the lady I hired to handle my divorce and the man I hired to handle my bankrupcy. When you need a lawyer, you NEED a lawyer.

I see your bankruptcy and divorce attorneys and raise you a criminal defense attorney who got my name cleared of a felony I didn't commit :)

Lawyers can be a real PITA at times and I think they have too much influence in Washington (how many Congress-critters are lawyers?) but you are absolutely right: When you need a lawyer, you NEED a lawyer. I suspect that the people who always complain about them have never needed the services of one.

Re:Generational Ship (2, Interesting)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796737)

Don't worry- my dad is putting his law degree to good use as an FBI agent putting corrupt politians in prison, so I realize how lawyers can do good. The bad ones just make it too easy to pick on the group as a whole.

Re:Generational Ship (1)

mR.bRiGhTsId3 (1196765) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796969)

I also think the bad ones are the ones that have a tendency to go into politics.

Re:Generational Ship (3, Funny)

Capt.DrumkenBum (1173011) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797395)

"The bad ones just make it too easy to pick on the group as a whole."
As someone once said "98% of lawyers give the rest a bad name."

Re:Generational Ship (1)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797057)

There are lawyers, and there are ambulance chasers. It's a common meme to say "kill all lawyers", but it's mostly in frustration with the current lawsuit-happy culture that a number of lawyers are more than willing to take their fee from. Don't forget... criminal and civil law are significantly different. Civil lawyers are WAY overpopulated. We need to cut off some of the lawsuit supply (fix copyrights/malpractice/tort law), at least cull a bit of the herd somehow.

Re:Generational Ship (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797319)

Don't forget... criminal and civil law are significantly different. Civil lawyers are WAY overpopulated. We need to cut off some of the lawsuit supply (fix copyrights/malpractice/tort law), at least cull a bit of the herd somehow.

I think we need to cull them out of Congress. Has anybody stopped to wonder why Congress is so good at passing mandates that are completely impractical in the real world? I tend to think it would do us some good if the people writing our laws included more engineers/doctors/law enforcement/technology/business/etc people and less lawyers. Lawyers are entirely too good at coming up with solutions that look great on paper and completely suck in the real world.

Re:Generational Ship (1)

CecilPL (1258010) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796671)

You missed the memo: the whole point of space exploration is to find a way to permanently get rid of our lawyers*, politicians and telemarketers. Having the thing come back would defeat the entire purpose.

Don't forget the hairdressers and telephone sanitizers.

Re:Generational Ship (2, Insightful)

PitaBred (632671) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797021)

So, lawyers, hairdressers, politicians and marketing people go on the B ark, and the engineers and scientists and such on the A ark? Let's launch the B ship first, because they're that much more important...

Re:Generational Ship (5, Insightful)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796409)

It all comes down to one thing: What's the point?

The cost would be massive, 10%+ of the worlds GDP for several decades just to get the thing built and stocked. The risks would be huge, we know next to nothing about the kinds of things that could go wrong with such a plan and the risks we do know about are already significant. And the payoff? Next to nothing. Certainly there would be no economic payoff, even if we were able to establish a colony (and there's about a thousand ifs that would need to be fulfilled for that to happen) there would be no way to set up any kind of trading system over those kinds of distances. Not leaving a colony behind is even less cost efficient, you're basically consigning generations of people to strict rationing and constant danger for the purpose all to be able to look and see what's going on the next star system over (hint: probably absolutely nothing).

No, there's only two ways that ark ships will be built.

One is if we have advanced warning of a catastrophe so horrible that spending a significant portion of the worlds wealth and resources just to save a few thousand people is preferable to actually trying to solve the problem. I can't even think about what that kind of catastrophe could be, in order to build an arkship you're going to have to be able to move and mine asteroids so that's out. Anything that would disrupt the inner solar system would still leave semi-habitable environment inside the solar system at less risk than sending an arkship into the unknown.

The second is if the society of Earth persecutes a group to the point that they want to leave, while paradoxically giving that group the wealth, technical knowledge, and political influence to make such a project happen. I just don't see that happening, unless the singularity really is near, and the kind of power and technology to make an arkship happens becomes commonplace.

Israel? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28796777)

You just solved the 'Middle East Crisis'!

Just raise taxes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28796899)

>> The cost would be massive

How exactly would massive cost stop the White House and Congress? Just tack-on another stepped 5% income tax to pay for this...works for other programs that way.

Re:Generational Ship (4, Insightful)

Hatta (162192) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796941)

One is if we have advanced warning of a catastrophe so horrible that spending a significant portion of the worlds wealth and resources just to save a few thousand people is preferable to actually trying to solve the problem.

The Sun will be going red giant in just 5 billion years. That's plenty of time to prepare.

Re:Generational Ship (1)

Em Emalb (452530) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796943)

you're basically consigning generations of people to strict rationing and constant danger for the purpose all to be able to look and see what's going on the next star system over (hint: probably absolutely nothing).

Ah, but what if you're wrong? What if, one star system over, they're having a MASSIVE keg party and people are getting naked in the hot tub?

What if?

(Why yes, my glass *is* half full today. I guess that means I need a smaller glass.

Re:Generational Ship (1)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797053)

Most of the catastrophes so horrible that they are unpreventable also give very little warning. Rogue black holes or gamma ray bursts are the two that spring immediately to mind here, but there might be others that we have no idea how to prepare for because the hazard is coming from something incredibly dangerous that we haven't invented yet.

Since this is slashdot, perhaps the best analogy here would be offsite backups: you don't only make them when you can see a disaster coming.

Re:Generational Ship (1)

Mitchell314 (1576581) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797249)

RAIC? (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Colonies)

Maybe way way way waaaaaaay down in the future. Mars/Moon (our moon) couldn't be a bad first step.

Re:Generational Ship (1)

hypergreatthing (254983) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797055)

hmm...
sending a colony/ark ship is nice, only if you know where your sending it to. It would be silly/foolish to not plan where to go. Space is the place to explore and to start getting ourselves into. Unlimited resources, more room, more possibilities. Once the economic hurdles of getting into space get overcome, everything else is not a problem.

Third scenario (2, Insightful)

voss (52565) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797121)

Minor note on your second scenario- It could be the group who is persecuted is the ones with money and technical knowledge, if they were politically influential they wouldn't be persecuted.

Third Scenario- An inhabitable world is discovered within a few years travel time.

Theres a lot more incentive to go when you sort of know whats there and as for trading who cares? If land is cheap and food is plentiful and you have a good chance of making it, people will go.

"Ive got 30,000 in debt, and $500 a month in child support. So my choices are stay here and give all my money to someone else or hop on your ark ship and go someplace where ill have land and can do whatever I want.
Where do i sign up?"

Re:Generational Ship (2, Interesting)

TheMeuge (645043) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797127)

1. The ultimate payoff is the eventual ability to spread beyond the solar system. In the grand scheme of things it's the most important long-term survival strategy for mankind.
2. The proximate payoff are the myriad of technologies we would develop for building the stupid thing, which would have a direct and measurable impact all over the world... and would have an even greater impact on our relationship with the rest of the solar system.
3.

The second is if the society of Earth persecutes a group to the point that they want to leave, while paradoxically giving that group the wealth, technical knowledge, and political influence to make such a project happen.

Jews?

Just plug the panel (1)

Cur8or (1220818) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796085)

into the input socket on the plans.

Wood paneling on minivans. (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28796115)

I have to say that Firefox is getting a lot worse lately. The user experience is in serious need of improvement and development is the pits. I installed the latest "big deal" Firefox update on June 30th. (For some reason they skipped a full four secondary updates, but whatever.) Upon restarting, which took several minutes, I began using Firefox 3.5 [mozilla.com] .

At first, Firefox seemed strangely familiar. I thought they had changed very little unnecessarily until I visited the Acid3 [acidtests.org] test. Lo and behold, I was still using Firefox 3.0.0.11 [mozilla.com] . What the fuck? I manually invoked Check for Updates and repeated my first attempt only to find, upon restarting, the same thing.

Finally in desperation I downloaded the installer manually from Mozilla [mozilla.com] . The install ran surprisingly quickly and, after a few minutes, I was launched with the new version. I had to check, though, because again I thought it looked like very little had changed.

In fact, did Mozilla bother changing anything beside the JavaScript? The new TraceMonkey is great and all, but they could have at least made it look like they were working on something else. When the most noticeable improvement is the "Know Your Rights" button (which everyone ignores) one really starts to wonder what the fuss was all about.

Well, after the three tries it took to upgrade, I found my profile wouldn't migrate. This was a mess, but I was able to eventually retrieve my bookmarks from a long, arcane file path in a hidden directory. But then upon visiting my bookmarked sites I found that almost none of my add-ons are compatible with it. Therefore my browser is almost entirely functionless.

The bookmark tool itself could use a polishing. It's a mess and has been since version 1.0. If a browser is meant to render and organize content, Firefox surely falls down in this area. Why does it take me several minutes to slosh through the GUI just to make a new folder and alphabetize some bookmarks in it? Not to mention the damned Bookmarks toolbar, which takes up too much damn space and can't be turned off.

And speaking of the GUI, it's slow as Hell slowget rid of the proprietary XUL and just hardcode the damned interface already!

I also have to mention memory use. On my system, Firefox was swallowing an incredible 400 MB with only a simple HTML 4 table open. 400 MB?! I blame this on the Firefox team's use of C++, where memory management is about as easy as herding cats. Likewise Firefox is a slow, bloated nightmare. (For a contrast, there's Safari [apple.com] , which is written in Objective C and is very small and efficient.)

Most of the time I have heavy JavaScript sites open. I shudder to think how much Firefox eats then, and I'll be sure to check in the future. No wonder my system tends to slow down when I've left Firefox open for days on end with dynamically updating pages and RSS feeds. Clearly, Firefox leaks memory like a cracked sieve in a waterfall.

With Firefox smelling more and more like crapware, I started to dig a little, first on Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] and then on the Mozilla Development Forums [mozilla.org] . It turns out that my observations are part of a larger pattern of Firefox quality issues and development customs. The Mozilla developers are a bunch of arrogant, abusive shitheads.

For starters, they're still running all tabs in the same process. This is something IE7 and Safari 3 have had right for years. So if a plugin crashes or a page takes forever to finish rendering, everything's stuck. You can't even switch tabs to another page! And Firefox 3.5 is a "milestone" release? Firefox 3.6 and 4 are milestones too, and process-per-tab isn't scheduled for either.

Developer interaction with Firefox users is stilted too. Sometimes Bugzilla [mozilla.org] reports are dismissed out of hand, only to be reopened when something goes terribly wrong later. I also saw instances of reported security flaws sitting years before being patched. In one case, someone released an exploit to point out the deep holes in Firefox before anyone did anything.

One time, a user with some programming experience suggested a bugfix to the wishlist. One programmer, whom I will not publicly name, suggested the user submit patches "once his balls dropped," if he were even male. If this were a real company and not a bunch of arrogant hacker hippies, user antagonism and sexism would never be acceptable. When I read this particular incident I uninstalled Firefox for good.

If anyone else has complaints about Firefox, post them here. For a browser that's taken nearly a third of the market, it's doing so with an incredibly broken development model and backend. Just imagine if the Firefox team actually treated its users right or prioritized projects properly. Maybe then the web would move beyond the mess of incompatibile standards and site hacks it is today.

Until then, Firefox is just another out-of-control Open Source project that needs a good stiff slap in the face.

Re:Wood paneling on minivans. (1)

xmff (1489321) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796583)

Man, create a blog or so to post your rants so it's easier to filter out this crap. It's not even loosely related to the current discussion.

Re:Wood paneling on minivans. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28797229)

? Are you retarded? How is it NOT related to the current discussion?

Direction to head, and hastily assembled proofs..

White House Panel Seeks Input On Spaceflight Plans

and Spaceflight plans don't have relevance?

good advice from real america (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28796131)

Stick a pipe bomb up a nigger's ass and call it a day.

Anything but another Apollo-style circus act (5, Insightful)

Man On Pink Corner (1089867) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796193)

The next time we send manned missions to the Moon (or Mars), let's get serious and do it sustainably. This business of sending someone up to collect rocks and beat a path back home just for the sake of planting a flag is just lame and depressing. Take the long view, secure international cooperation and funding, and work on genuine colonization efforts.

Re:Anything but another Apollo-style circus act (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796363)

Take the long view, secure international cooperation and funding

Because what the space program needs is more bureaucracy......

Re:Anything but another Apollo-style circus act (4, Insightful)

mcgrew (92797) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796563)

In 1969 it was unfeasable; bringing back a few (hundred pounds of) rocks was the best we could do at the time.

You young folks wouldn't believe how primitive things were back then. The onboard Apollo computer, for example, weighed 180 pounds and was about as powerful as the Timex-Sinclair 1000 (1 mz CPU, 2k memory). Automatic doors, cellphones, medical readouts in hospitals, space shuttles, flat screen computers, were only in Star Trek and not in real life.

To someone my age, we're living a science fiction life.

Re:Anything but another Apollo-style circus act (3, Insightful)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796601)

The next time we send manned missions to the Moon (or Mars), let's get serious and do it sustainably.

You don't know much about the Apollo missions if that's your opinion of it. The ultimate mission of Apollo was to build a moon base. Before we could do that, we had to be able to land on the moon, know what it was made of, if it was living or dead, and if the moon tended to shred equipment. We need to know if it was possible to land within 100 miles of a target, and more. NASA was headed to Mars in a few years with only a few billion dollars if their funding was kept up. However, a recession and an unpopular war and many political factors (including people who were shouting "What's the point?" and then not listening for an answer) drained the NASA budget and instead of being able to apply all they were learning on the moon, it just became an entry in the encyclopedia and a memory.

Re:Anything but another Apollo-style circus act (1)

Colonel Korn (1258968) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796743)

The next time we send manned missions to the Moon (or Mars), let's get serious and do it sustainably.

You don't know much about the Apollo missions if that's your opinion of it. The ultimate mission of Apollo was to build a moon base. Before we could do that, we had to be able to land on the moon, know what it was made of, if it was living or dead, and if the moon tended to shred equipment. We need to know if it was possible to land within 100 miles of a target, and more. NASA was headed to Mars in a few years with only a few billion dollars if their funding was kept up. However, a recession and an unpopular war and many political factors (including people who were shouting "What's the point?" and then not listening for an answer) drained the NASA budget and instead of being able to apply all they were learning on the moon, it just became an entry in the encyclopedia and a memory.

The funding cut was decided in 1966 or 1967, I believe, before we even set foot on the Moon. I think it was definitely the right choice to continue the plans as long as the reduced funding would last - there was a chance that witnessing what was arguably the human race's greatest achievement would lead to a new source of funding.

Re:Anything but another Apollo-style circus act (3, Interesting)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796781)

The ultimate mission of Apollo was to build a moon base.

Do you have a citation for this? My understanding is that in 1969 Von Braun proposed as a follow-on project to Apollo not a lunar base, but human exploration of Mars [astronautix.com] . Under Von Braun's 1969 plan, the first Mars manned mission would launch in 1981, with a 50-person Martian base by 1989, using reusable spacecraft and under a peak NASA budget of $7 billion a year. Of course, I suppose he may have wanted a lunar base in parallel.

Re:Anything but another Apollo-style circus act (2, Informative)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797183)

Then you'll see that Mercury's main focus was putting a man in space. Apollo's main focus was putting a man on the moon and getting him safely home (There were to be 20 Apollo missions, the goal was achieved in 11, the moon base was an extension of the Apollo mission. The Mars mission would be a different series of missions than Apollo. Apollo's mission objectives can be found on NASA's website [nasa.gov] but the specifics are usually garnered from other books, like any of those written by the astronauts -- such as Gene Cernan's Last Man on the Moon.

How about "Robots Only" (4, Insightful)

nweaver (113078) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796197)

All of the proposed plans are based on the arguably flawed assumption that humans can add significant value in flexibility over current robotic explorers. Which is clearly not the case based on experiences with the mars rovers and similar devices.

Why can't we just admit the unpleasant: Yes, in 1969, if you wanted to explore the moon you needed a person. Now, 40 years later, you need robots and let the people sit comfortably back at JPL and Houston, safe and sound and cheaper.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (5, Insightful)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796269)

We don't send people out there because it's easy. We do it because it's hard.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (4, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796305)

Because we want to get people to these destinations. The goal isn't for probes to inhabit these bodies, it's for humans to. If you take that away we've pretty much already accomplished these missions.

Not to say that robots can't help in the near future, but it's not the reason we're doing it.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (2, Insightful)

CannonballHead (842625) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796499)

Why make humans go there before it's ready for humans to inhabit though?

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796543)

As I said, robots can help in the near future. Why make me repeat something that I've already said?

Re:How about "Robots Only" (2, Interesting)

sumdumass (711423) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796655)

The great thing about humans is the AI factor. The (artificial) intelligence in humans is vastly superior to actual artificial intelligence of robots or computers.

Now, you might think we we didn't have any problems in mars. But we did, we have a rover stuck in a crater, we have had rovers that were stuck before and had to alter their missions while teams of engineers and massive amounts of resources were consumed attempting to unstuck them. A human can process this basic information much such as path and determine the 3d characteristics of object in front of them much faster and better then computers and remote controls.

In some ways, we aren't as proficient as computers and machines. The augmentation of machines and computers can greatly streamline the colonization of the moon plus allow us to refine our approach and logistics for life support. Sending humans with robots can be a means of gathering data as well as making our efforts more proficient as well as safer at the same time.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (2, Insightful)

melikamp (631205) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796525)

So what exactly is the point of sending a human to Mars? I happen to believe that humans must colonize the solar system just to survive, but why start with Mars? The Moon is much closer and offers all the same challenges.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (2, Insightful)

east coast (590680) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796571)

I would agree that the moon should be first. But to claim that it's the same is foolish.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

mR.bRiGhTsId3 (1196765) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797023)

Mars is closer to earth gravity and once had an atmosphere which could conceivably make terraforming easier. Colonizing the moon would mean whoever lives there will always spend their time in giant glass bubbles.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

FireHawk77028 (770487) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797049)

The moons gravity is too low to support any type of atmosphere, its a vacuum, mars has an atmosphere, just not breathable. I believe mars is also supposed to contain more useful minerals.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797281)

In terms of Delta-V [wikipedia.org] , as far as putting things on the surface is concerned, Mars is actually closer because you can use aerobraking. If you just want to get into orbit, then the Moon is obviously easier, but I don't think the point is to wave as we go past.

The challenges aren't necessarily the same. The environment of Mars isn't so far off from the more extreme environments on earth (like deserts or frozen tundras), so we can test a lot of equipment right here and now. Further, with no wind to shave down its barbed edges, lunar dust is nasty stuff that sticks like velcro and probably has very bad effects on equipment and the human respiratory system.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (2, Insightful)

Crudely_Indecent (739699) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797161)

Why not have the best of both worlds. I remember reading (over a decade ago) about a plan called Mars Direct [wikipedia.org] .

We could easily send robots and provisions for future colonization using the terms set forth in the plan.

IM(not so)HO, this is a ploy for the Obama White House to emulate thunder created by the Kennedy White House. It's cheap and fake thunder for the sake of approval ratings.

Apply their current success ratio to any future plan to get an idea of the likelihood for success. They should really start aiming lower so that their failures aren't so colossal.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (4, Interesting)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796357)

Even wearing a spacesuit, I betcha I could walk up slopes and around obstacles better than the (admittedly wonderfully performing) Spirit & Opportunity rovers.

And hopefully after a few years of doing so, I wouldn't have to crawl around ass-first all the time.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (5, Insightful)

nweaver (113078) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796585)

But you can't be kept "alive" without tons and tons of support equipment....

The infrastructure cost for humans in space is staggering. Look at just how many tons of shit needed to be put in orbit to build the ISS and keep people alive and supplied: there have been 48 manned flights and 37 unmanned flights. And thats to sustain 3 people continuously in low earth orbit.

Do you realize just how many sattelites and autonomous scientific experiments you could put up with that much launch capability?

And the current manned space program produces alomst NO science. Lets take the columbia's final mission, which cost 7 lives. For a pure science mission, all the scientific research could have been conducted by automated in-orbit devices (all the non-biological experiments, and most of the bio experiments on non-humans) or are predicated on human spaceflight (the bio experiments on people).

Seven lives were sacrificed for nothing of value : they never needed to be there.

Face it, space, for now, is not meant for fragile organic bags of mostly water.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28796785)

It isn't about science. If it was about science, you'd stick all that money into an actual science--where we know will have some sort of result. No, it's about exploration and engineering challenges. Which is fine by me.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796831)

bags of mostly water

You quote star trek to justify not going to space? There's a first! :)

While my comments were meant somewhat in jest, I agree with you to a certain extent. For the purposes of poking around a few rocks on a far away world, robots are by far the more sensible option.
For the purposes of colonisation, though, the organic bags of mostly water have it for now. Saying that, I don't think we're remotely near the position where colonising mars could be considered a sensible venture.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797085)

Keep in mind that the space station hasn't begun it's primary science mission yet. It's just now being finished. The station needs a few people up there just to keep it running. Once it is fully crewed (now, and when toilet is fixed) the science can finally begin.

That's why there hasn't been any science coming from it. They have not been doing any!

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

Xin Jing (1587107) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797181)

NASA did learn something. The known heat tile failure problem reached a pinnacle with the destruction of the Columbia. Afterwards, NASA had a protocol for search and recovery of a space vehicle that had been fragmented over the area of several contiguous states. Also, a procedure was implemented that required the inspection of the Shuttle exterior for heat tile damage before returing to Earth.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797189)

Seven lives were sacrificed for nothing of value : they never needed to be there.

Nothing of scientific value, or maybe nothing worth the cost, but engineering/social/political knowledge is being gained with every launch, especially on international projects.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28797289)

The infrastructure cost for humans in space is staggering.

And yet the potential payoffs are literally unimaginable. We can't begin to imagine what's out there, and what it might mean for us. The only way we'll ever know are to get out there.

Self Sufficiency (1)

clarkn0va (807617) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797313)

The infrastructure cost for humans in space is staggering.

That's why I keep going on about how important it is to plant a garden as soon as you get there. And only flush after number two. "If it's yellow, let it mellow. If it's brown, flush it down."

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

Minwee (522556) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797045)

After a few years of walking around on Mars you would get pretty hungry. And thirsty. And you might need to change the air in that spacesuit of yours too.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

FireHawk77028 (770487) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797115)

I think the current rover weighs 400lbs. If you weigh 150lbs with your suit on, that leaves 250lbs for food/water/life support for however long you are staying.. not including what you need for the 6-7 month flight. Oh, and you weren't planning on returning were you?

Re:How about "Robots Only" (5, Interesting)

John Miles (108215) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796385)

Which is clearly not the case based on experiences with the mars rovers and similar devices.

Ridiculous. Think of one of the most interesting discoveries made by the Phoenix lander -- the frozen condensate that formed on one of the landing struts. A human would have noticed that immediately and been able to analyze it in detail. Conversely, a robotic probe can do only what it's programmed to do. All we can do is stroke our beards and say "Hmm, wonder what that is?"

When you're not only expecting the unexpected, but hoping for it, you want human boots on the ground. One human mission is easily worth twenty robotic missions.

Hell, NASA should consider offering one-way trips. They'd have enough volunteers to crash their Web server. Most people aren't doing anything that important or interesting with the rest of their lives, are they? Send one old guy with a shovel, a microscope, and a carbon-monoxide canister, and we'll learn more than we would from the next hundred years' worth of robots.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797193)

Send one old guy with a shovel, a microscope, and a carbon-monoxide canister...

Geez! Mars is hostile enough already, and you want to send a canister of poisonous gas along?

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797283)

Send one old guy with a shovel

Good luck doing that on a Scout budget.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28796431)

Go back to your cave.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

flaming error (1041742) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796453)

> All of the proposed plans are based on the ... assumption that
> humans can add significant value

Not really. The cover story says this is all about scientific curiosity regarding our universe, and maybe someday commercial mining. But lurking beneath the surface is the uncomfortable truth that life on Earth has an expiration date.

This is about extra-terrestrial colonization. That's why we focus so much on discovering liquid water, and that's why eventually humans have to make the trip.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796501)

I COMPLETELY agree.

There is no need to send People into space. Yes, some good work was done getting people to the moon, but it wasn't until the last few missions that actual scientists got to go. I would humbly suggest that while a variety of technologies have come from manned space flight, most of the real KNOWLEDGE about the universe has come from robots, satellites, and orbiters. No human being can see as well as the HST. No human being can withstand Mars for as long as the rovers have, using the amount of resources the rovers have. I would cheerfully send 100 rovers to Mars, of greater size and sophistication, than send ONE person there.

The usual bleatings and objections are all mythological: "it is our destiny" or some variant on that. There is no such thing as destiny. There are simply things we can and should do, things we can and shouldn't do. Sending people into space is something we can and shouldn't do. We shouldn't because of the expense, the risk, the complexity, and productivity per dollar. If we want to industrialise space, we need to apply industrial methods, and that means mechanisation where possible to eliminate labour.

I completely agree with Mr Weaver: NASA should have a policy of robots only. The sophistication of what robots can do is growing by leaps and bounds. Heck - there's an article here on slashdot: Artificial Brain 10 years away [slashdot.org] . Even if it was 1/2 as sophisticated as the human brain, it would be more than capable enough to be dedicated to a complex robotic mission to any number of planets, moons, and asteroids. And there are "dumber" machines that are basically prosthetics for ground control that we've been using for years.

My opinion: ditch the mythology and chest thumping nonsense, and get on with the real business of space exploration... using machines that are far more capable than people in these environments.

RS

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

he-sk (103163) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796859)

Your point that industrializing space means relying more and more on robots is true.

But.

I want to go to space. I want to see the blue marble. I want to walk on the moon and on mars. If I had 20 mil lying around I'd be on the ISS right now. Screw the non-existing scientific value, the excitement of being in space is worth the cost, IHMO.

I heard that Virgin Galactic plans to offer ballistic trips for 20 grand in the next decade. Sign me up.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796949)

Cool - go for it - pay Virgin Atlantic to do that. We're talking NASA policy here, which needs to have the greatest information yield per dollar possible - not some rocket propelled rollercoaster ride for adrenaline junkies. That's what Virgin Galactic is for.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (2, Insightful)

jackspenn (682188) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796523)

  1. The Soviets used robotics to explore moon, so you did not need humans as far back as the early 70s.
  2. Your flawed assumption fails to take into account the great advancement by sending a person, aka the coolness factor. Sending robots or whatever to wherever is not challenging enough. It lacks adventure and risk that pushes adventurer/explorer in humans.
  3. Why leave your house, why not just sit in your house, make money programming remotely, order pizza and groceries? Because seeing a picture of a flower is not the same as seeing a flower, touching it and not to mention the unexpected, like running across a bee or humming bird.
  4. To remove the adventure/explorer/risk aspect of space exploration makes not sense to me.
  5. Finally having somebody from Japan, America and Russia walk on Mars is more of a bonding experience then landing a droid built in those various countries on Mars.

I guess my point is only people who lack vision, guts and balls only want to use robots.

Re:How about "Robots Only" (1)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796839)

1. The Soviets used robotics to explore moon, so you did not need humans as far back as the early 70s.

good for them.

2. Your flawed assumption fails to take into account the great advancement by sending a person, aka the coolness factor.

Cool is subjective gibberish. It used to be cool to smoke cigarettes. In some countries it still is. Do we put a smoking lounge on the Mars mission? When they get there, will they grow tobacco? Your supposed "coolness factor" does not in anyway disprove his points. Or mine, for that matter.

Sending robots or whatever to wherever is not challenging enough. It lacks adventure and risk that pushes adventurer/explorer in humans.

Advanced robotics is an industry still in development. comparing it to a bunch of butcherous assholes who invaded foreign mands at point of sword and smallpox in search of gold and spices is not a comparison worth making.

3. Why leave your house, why not just sit in your house, make money programming remotely, order pizza and groceries? Because seeing a picture of a flower is not the same as seeing a flower, touching it and not to mention the unexpected, like running across a bee or humming bird.

Because it won't be YOU going to Mars. YOUR experience of Mars would be (necessarily) a mediated one. In which case, you might as well "fake it" and pretend that its real because YOU are not going. Your argument is so clueless, it's astounding.

4. To remove the adventure/explorer/risk aspect of space exploration makes not sense to me.

But it makes sense to me, and just because you haven't the horsepower to puzzle it out doesn't mean that you're correct.

5. Finally having somebody from Japan, America and Russia walk on Mars is more of a bonding experience then landing a droid built in those various countries on Mars.

Nice. Howabout, oh, I dunno - the other 6 billion people - like in Liberia, or Ghana, or Burkina Faso or Bolivia, or Cuba, or North Korea, or Mongolia or China or the Maldives, or Tuva, or Armenia or Iran or Iraq or Afghanistan or Pakistan or India or Somalia? Or better yet, how about using the billions you would piss away on a Mars mission and get clean water to some of the place I mentioned? And maybe some decent medical treatment and educate the women. THAT would do far more to instill good will around the world than engaging in proxy wars over resources and using the third world as the battle ground.

I guess my point is only people who lack vision, guts and balls only want to use robots.

What your points of argument say is that only people who are arrogant, clueless, testosterone poisoned meatheads don't want to use robots. I know this isn't true, but you have not made a single convincing case for manned flight, and with ever increasing sophistication of computer technology and prosthetics, the actual case for manned flight boils down to a misguided mythological teleological notion of "destiny".

RS

RS

Re:How about "Robots Only" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28797179)

Sorry, but a human is infinitely more capable of making deductions and observations about the environment they are in, than a robot broadcasting a feed back to home base.

The fact that you even suggest that tells me you haven't a clue what you're talking about.

Flexible = least glamorous, most productive? (4, Insightful)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796327)

As appealing as "get your ass to mars" seems, I suspect the "flexible" shallow gravity wells option (mining NEOs and the like) would cause the most sweeping changes across industry and society.

If a space presence is what we really want, then that would seem to (under-informed) me to be the option with the most immediate and obvious financial benefits, and the one most likely to encourage indistrial expansion into space. Expansion of the sort that is most likely to stay.

Re:Flexible = least glamorous, most productive? (2, Interesting)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796533)

I agree, visiting NEOs is much easier than sending us to Mars and has the possibility of real economic (not just incidental R and D) impact. It would also serve as a test bed if we ever see a rock coming our way and need to do something about it. If we could find a source of rocket fuel that isn't at the bottom of a major gravity well, I would say go there first, but in the meantime visiting and eventually moving NEO would be the highest priority for me.

Re:Flexible = least glamorous, most productive? (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796871)

Anyone have ideas on how to pitch "Flexible Path" as an exciting option to the public? I mean, I personally think asteroid mining, learning to detect potential planet killers, visiting comet cores, and viewing Mars from Phobos [mac.com] would be pretty inspiring, but I'm not sure how to sell it to the public.

Re:Flexible = least glamorous, most productive? (1)

SBrach (1073190) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797263)

Yes, there's no safer profession then mining. Especially when you're perched on a snowball whipping through space at a million miles an hour. Woo woo woooooooooo. Safe.

I like the flexible path (4, Insightful)

Steve1952 (651150) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796333)

The flexible path that would go to shallow gravity well destinations, such as asteroids or the martian moons, makes a lot of sense to me. This lets NASA gradually transition from the international space station to long duration space voyages, while avoiding the big problem of lifting the huge amount of mass needed to enter and return from gravity wells. To show how much simpler the shallow gravity well problem is, consider that efficient, low-power thrusters mounted on a platform similar to the international space station could do the trick. At the same time, this lets us gain access to materials (ice, metals, etc.) present in the space environment, and also lets us do a lot of interesting fundamental science.

Re:I like the flexible path (1)

Dripdry (1062282) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796837)

I agree with you, but I start to see one problem with asteroid minig: Great, we can make stuff in space. How can we get it back to earth to sell to people? Where is the market for the goods produced? If the manufactured goods only stay in space, what good is it? Should companies be expected to make investments in space that may not have a market for a 100 years or more?

Not trying to be difficult, as I said I really do agree with you and like your reasoning, just giving a capitalistic slant that might explain why companies aren't chomping at the bit to go into space and mine the trillions of dollars in resources out there.

They have to expect the consensus to be... (2, Interesting)

cwiegmann24 (1476667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796423)

Go to Mars. Most of us would agree that there are much more beneficial endeavors, probably more profitable as well. But the fact of the matter is nothing else would get as much attention from the general public as going to Mars.

Mars: hell yea! Phobos: Hell (no!) (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28796489)

I'd go to mars in a second! But I hear the demon population is a bit high on Phobos, and ammo for a BFG is just too expensive these days.

Non-definitive list (2, Interesting)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796497)

One project which would be helpful for any sort of Mars exploration would be the establishment of a communication and navigation infrastructure. Maybe a dozen small satellites in polar orbits* with a sort of GPS-lite capability and a store-and-forward messaging capability. Plus two big communication sats with nice big solar arrays and very powerful radio transciever for getting data back to earth. (And forwarding commands to any probe or manned mission that needs it.)

A near-Earth-system manned mission capability. Take the planned NASA Earth orbit / Moon orbit ship and add a refuelable propulsion / service module. Future versions could have a reactor & radiator, and maybe even a fission rocket motor.

* Yes, this is a challenge.

Keep trying to cut the cost to LEO (4, Interesting)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796517)

The most important single advance that could help spaceflight, manned and unmanned would be to reduce the cost to LEO. This will require, ultimately, a SSTO (single stage to orbit) launcher. Of course it's tough (remember the X-34? the Delta Clipper?) but that doesn't mean that with new advances in materials (can you say carbon nanotube reinforced composites) it's impossible. Unless we can bring the cost of access to space down by a factor of at least 10 a lot of these dreams will remain just that; dreams.

After that, new low thrust high specific impulse engines would be very useful along with a compact energy source to power them. VASIMIR sounds promising and maybe magnetic sails (which might have the side benefit of protection against cosmic rays). We'll probably need real nuclear reactors in space like the SNAP program (or the Russian equivalent). Remember the words of an airforce general: "a new plane doesn't make a new engine possible, a new engine makes a new plane possible".

Ultimately, of course, a space elevator is the best way to go. There was a proposal, I think, of building one for less than $10B by using a "small" elevator to bring the materials gradually up from earth (rather than trying to capture an carbonaceous asteroid to use as a material source/counterweight). Of course we'll need those carbon nanotubes again!

Mod parent up (1)

Late Adopter (1492849) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796759)

The delta-v required to get off Earth is just plain enormous. That's a fact of physics which will NEVER change. What can change is (a) the cost of energy, and (b) how efficiently we can use that energy to escape our gravity well. If you want to make space exploration more feasible you have to do one or both of those two.

Re:Keep trying to cut the cost to LEO (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797345)

The most important single advance that could help spaceflight, manned and unmanned would be to reduce the cost to LEO. This will require, ultimately, a SSTO (single stage to orbit) launcher. Of course it's tough (remember the X-34? the Delta Clipper?) but that doesn't mean that with new advances in materials (can you say carbon nanotube reinforced composites) it's impossible.

Actually, the Delta Clipper (DC-X) [wikipedia.org] didn't seem too "tough," at least as far as manned space projects go. The only problem it had was an easily-fixed faulty landing gear, and the main reason NASA cancelled it was so that it could focus attention on the much more expensive X-33. The follow-on orbital SSTO program, DC-Y [astronautix.com] , was estimated to only cost $5 billion to develop, which would include 4 production vehicles. Hopefully Armadillo Aerospace and Blue Origin (which has hired many of the original DC-X engineers) can pick up the torch.

Even with SSTO though, I think SpaceX is showing that you can lower costs quite a bit by designing a multi-stage rocket with cost in mind. Elon Musk seems to believe that he's fully capable of dropping launch costs by at least an order of magnitude with his current approach, and has bet quite a bit of his own money on that.

How about... (4, Funny)

cwiegmann24 (1476667) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796539)

We create a huge solar array, big enough to cause a solar eclipse, and position it so it happens every other week or so. It would really freak India out...

Practice moving asteroids! (4, Interesting)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796705)

Anything else we do is grave decoration.

Sending probes or even people to explore Mars, Alpha Centauri or Wolf 359 is a waste if we are wiped out by an asteroid. We have some good theories on how to do it. We need to test them.

Let's practice while we still have the luxury of time... and failure.

Space Elevator, Duh (2, Insightful)

nsteinme (909988) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796763)

The construction of a space elevator will allow humans to get anywhere else in space faster and cheaper. Rocket-based methods are horribly inefficient ways to get to orbit. Payload launch costs of $10,000 or more [futron.com] per pound? You gotta be kidding me. If we don't have the technology for space elevators yet, NASA should be working on that as a top priority.

As long as there's real science (4, Interesting)

Theodore (13524) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796849)

Go ahead and go, go anywhere and everywhere...
But actually DO something once you get there, don't just go there to wave your dick around.

I'd really like to see a good sized radio telescope built on the far side of the moon, complete with relay lines to dishes at the terminus between near and far sides, so there's no accidental reflections from earth off of relay satellites instead.

Going further out than LEO would be good also...
I remember reading this PDF of a flight plan from around 40 years ago, where they wanted to send a crew further INTO the solar system, and actually intercept/orbit Venus, using apollo tech.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manned_Venus_Flyby [wikipedia.org]

How about a small, self sufficient station at L3?
You'd need a couple of relay sats for comms, but that's a smaller cost than the station.

Alas, none of this will happen though, because we're too adverse to risk these days, and we wouldn't DARE send someone condemned to death out there instead, it'd de-demonize them (serial killer and first man on another planet?).
Plus, have you noticed that most of the studies about going into space for long periods of time involve seeing if people can do with limited to no social interaction?
Yeah, most of US can, but the ones they trust to send up there, CAN'T!
So we gotta settle for unmanned probes.

So fire off at least one every month.
Pick something to study: moon, planet, propulsion tech, comm tech, interstellar phenomenom (this one will take time and would need to be fast).
And if you need some tech to make sure it works (such as an RTG), and people complain about it, ignore them with extreme prejudice.

And more space telescopes!
Seriously, we have barely a handful pointing outwards, but probably hundreds (classified, guess, and hope you're not accurate) looking back down?

Another Vote For Robots... (2, Insightful)

Xin Jing (1587107) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796855)

The modern national space program like what we've seen recently with the Shuttle was flawed from inception due to Pentagon-mandated low-orbit satellite retrieval capability, cost-prohibitive quick-turn launch requirements and catastrophic reoccuring heat tile failure. NASA for the most part didn't have a problem getting us there, they had a problem getting us back. Arguably, I think the Mars Exploration Rovers Spirit and Opportunity provided the biggest return on investment NASA has committed in the last 20 years. Space exploration is a business, and every time you have an orbiter burn up due to a lingering design problem - no matter how cool it is to EVA and pilot a spacecraft - you set the support (ie taxpayers) back. MER took the same form factor, packed in more science return, and left Earth and is presently exploring another planet from it's surface. I'm not saying humans shouldn't be in space, or that scientific achievements haven't been realized. Given the cost, dangers and complexity of putting a person in space versus a robot, a sensable direction begins to emerge. No one except perhaps the designers will mourn for a robot that burns up on entry because of heat shield failure or is destroyed on impact because the parachute fails to open.

Nohting right now (1)

SGDarkKnight (253157) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796877)

One might think the best course of action would be to establish a lunar coloney that could be used as an output for any future missions further out into space. However, the lunar coloney would be subject to the impacts [wikipedia.org] from space rock. The moon is constanly being hit by micro-meteorites and until we can find some way to block these types of impacts, i cant see any type of installtion lasting very long. I still belive that the lunar coloney would be the best starting point for any future space exploration. Just my two cents though

Re:Nohting right now (1)

ubergamer1337 (912210) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797243)

I find your coloney plan bologna! :-)

Ceres or bust (1)

T Murphy (1054674) | more than 5 years ago | (#28796879)

I say we beat the Buggers to Ceres.

Re:Ceres or bust (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28797153)

I agree completely. It would be a great object to colonize on; would allow a large enough base of operations in the belts to also work on practicing moving asteroids around for the purpose of industry (ship building/general space based construction practice T&E).. Would also have the secondary side effect of preservation of the species if we corralled fast movers cruising through the interior.

Space Elevator for initial construction of some form of a space port/larger scale space station (the legitimate self, or nearly self-sustaining stations of SCI-FI); Small moon base for a refueling depot in a small gravity well, and Ceres for the win. It'd be so perfect, hollowed out large scale construction facility located with ample resources and a small gravity well.

Pop in some of those microwave beaming solar satellite arrays we're working on for power, maybe a nuclear power source as well.. Stirling engines for energy recovery/cooling of the focused PVs/within the station.. Large scale agricultural effort as well.. Ceres. Ceres. Ceres

NASA as Open Source R&D Public Works Project (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28797093)

I recommended that NASA add a scenario to recast NASA as an "infrastructure" building public works program rather than a national prestige exploration program. The goal of "safe, innovative, affordable, and sustainable" manned spaceflight can best be met through collaboration with commercial manned spaceflight rather than a system of NASA run manned exploration projects. To achieve this collaboration, NASA should refocus on "infrastructure" - not literally space lift facilities, but instead the knowledge infrastructure private industry is lacking. Returning to its NACA research roots, NASA should perform pure research and development and release the information gained and systems developed to the commercial spaceflight community via an open source license. Specific focus should be given to robust ECLSS systems and standardized docking systems and procedures. This research would allow the space industry to rapidly produce safe and affordable lift vehicles and spacecraft which could interact with the ISS, explore NEO objects for exploitable resources, and generally increase the profit-generating capability of space beyond space tourism. NASA continuing to provide open source research would allow manned use of space to evolve naturally, following the rules of supply and demand to determine which locations need to be explored when rather than an artificial timeline for national prestige.

railgun (3, Interesting)

strack (1051390) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797185)

what we need, is a huge ass railgun that shoots telephone pole shaped slugs, filled with water, oxygen, or whatever raw materials are needed, up to a space station in geostationary orbit. a space station with a cnc machine, and some manufacturing capability, so you can create new parts for said space station.

Enable private space industry (1)

chaim79 (898507) | more than 5 years ago | (#28797325)

Forget government, let NASA play it's space game and retire the shuttle, government will never do space right.

Space needs to be done by the public, companies, individuals, etc need to be permitted to go into space without fighting NASA for each flight.

Burt Rutan [ted.com] discusses this issue fairly well, I'm with him, private industry and people will be the viable plan for future spaceflight, forget the government.

some interesting suggestions here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#28797363)

--
you can find some good, interesting and useful suggestions for the Human Space Flight Plans Committee and NASA here:
--
http://www.ghostnasa.com/posts/045suggestions.html
--

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