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NASA Wants To Fund Space Taxis

samzenpus posted more than 4 years ago | from the would-you-like-a-trip-to-the-stars dept.

NASA 136

NASA plans on using $50 million in stimulus funds to seed development of a commercial passenger transportation service to space. Potential space taxi inventors have 45 days to submit their proposals. The proposals will be competitively evaluated and the winners will be announced by the end of September. It is unclear what other Commodore 64 games NASA plans on making a reality, but I hope Arkanoid makes the short list.

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136 comments

Once again ... (1, Funny)

neonprimetime (528653) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025575)

NASA plans on using $50 million in stimulus funds to seed development of a commercial passenger transportation service to space.

... More stimulus funds that 99% of the middle class will never see. How is this gonna help my 401k?

Re:Once again ... (3, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025621)

If you invest your 401k heavily in companies building nightclubs in space, this space taxi service will be a major boon for you.

Re:Once again ... (1)

Darth Sdlavrot (1614139) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025851)

Unfortunately, if this is like most ventures, it'll be privately funded by VCs, and you won't be able to participate until they go public. Therefore you and I will miss most of the potential for monetary gain. Of course if you've got enough money to be of interest to a VC then this won't be an issue for you, but then I doubt you'd be whining here on /.

Re:Once again ... (3, Funny)

A. B3ttik (1344591) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026447)

Space Taxis? Do we really want to trust Arabs with our latest NASA technology?

Re:Once again ... (1)

K. S. Kyosuke (729550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29029555)

I agree. Space Rikshaws are bound to be much safer in the end, not to mention cheaper.

Re:Once again ... (4, Insightful)

cthulu_mt (1124113) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025647)

Wrong! You saw that stimulus money when the government took it out of your wallet!

Say thanks to Uncle Sam.

Re:Once again ... (1, Insightful)

Arthur B. (806360) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025829)

This is not a troll, this is informative.

Re:Once again ... (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29026057)

this is not flamebait, this is redundant

Re:Once again ... (1)

krnpimpsta (906084) | more than 4 years ago | (#29029903)

This is not a troll, this is informative.

this is not flamebait, this is redundant

Redundant? THIS.. IS.. +5 INSIGHTFUL!!!!!!!!

Re:Once again ... (5, Insightful)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025877)

NASA plans on using $50 million in stimulus funds to seed development of a commercial passenger transportation service to space. ... More stimulus funds that 99% of the middle class will never see. How is this gonna help my 401k?

Ah, the old "spending money on the space program means ferrying dollar bills into orbit and dumping them there" argument. One day people will get it into their heads that money spent on the space program is spent pretty much exclusively on Earth where jobs are created, new technologies are developed, and countless other economic and social spin-offs are generated. In the meantime, I'll have to keep on posting this reminder.

Re:Once again ... (1, Insightful)

nigelo (30096) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026389)

I'll keep posting this, too, I guess:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_window_fallacy [wikipedia.org]

Re:Once again ... (5, Insightful)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026627)

Remember, the reason the broken window fallacy is a fallacy is that it assumes that breaking a window and having to fix it is the only thing that gets the money moving and thus you're making things better by breaking the window. The observation that this money could have been spent on new development with equal or greater effect on the economy is what nullifies it.

Investing in space tourism is investing in cheap access to space. That's not anything like digging ditches just so you can fill them in, or breaking a window so you have to fix it, or going to war so you have to spend tons of money blowing things and people up. It's more like (though not exactly like) the U.S. highway system. A public works project that had a huge economic benefit.

Re:Once again ... (2, Insightful)

nigelo (30096) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026791)

Agreed.

Then I guess we could argue matters of degree: do we get bigger benefit from space-related research or, say, stem-cell research, investing in social programs or basic education.

And I'd have to say 'I don't know, so let's find a way to invest in all of them, and hopefully reduce the need for investment in the digging ditches/filling them in, etc.'

Re:Once again ... (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027041)

Then I guess we could argue matters of degree: do we get bigger benefit from space-related research or, say, stem-cell research, investing in social programs or basic education.

Yes. This is the correct place for the debate to be.

And I'd have to say 'I don't know, so let's find a way to invest in all of them, and hopefully reduce the need for investment in the digging ditches/filling them in, etc.'

Agreed. And from that standpoint, $50mil seems like a pittance compared to the totality of our government's investment. I'd like to see more, and more for all the things you mentioned previously, and less, say, corn subsidies where megalo-corps grow tons of excess corn and then let it rot.

Re:Once again ... (0)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027065)

Or better yet, lets leave the money in the hands of the population and let them decided.

Re:Once again ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29028173)

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

Re:Once again ... (0)

ArsonSmith (13997) | more than 4 years ago | (#29030521)

Exactly, the argument for privatization of everything.

Re:Once again ... (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29029985)

That's right...because 50,000,000 goes so far when splitting it 305,000,000 ways.

Re:Once again ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29026845)

It would be beneficial if developed within the next 6 months. To get the most "bang for the buck", we could load the current administration and all derivatives for the initial test flight. The economy would recover overnight, the sun would shine again, flowers would bloom, et cetera.

Re:Once again ... (1)

stokessd (89903) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026877)

The highway system has a huge benefit because there are, you know, places to go. People can use roads in cars, on bikes, on foot and even busses etc. Is a space taxi or space exploration the most efficient use of technology, and technology transfer?

There's a lot of technology that can be brought to bear on building the biggest jenga tower too, but is that the most efficient method to get that technology and jobs spread around?

I suppose if you think there is some sort of future in space, then this may be worthwhile. But call me cynical, but I'd like some sort of similar effort put into exploring and enriching things where the people actually are. Even if there is a future in space, I won't see it. I want to see more practical programs that affect us where we are. Here's some crazy ideas: better actually usable public transport in the US, more renewable energy in the US, bridges and roads improved in the US, rails to trails, park improvements, etc. Then there's healthcare, etc. I'd put the space taxi on the last page of the pad of paper I was writing on.

Sheldon
(former NASA guy)

Re:Once again ... (1)

Naturalis Philosopho (1160697) | more than 4 years ago | (#29028711)

Yeah, I'll never meet my great-great-great-great grandkids either, so It's kind of stupid to plan that far into the future... I mean, what's the benefit to me?

Or did I misunderstand your argument?

Re:Once again ... (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 4 years ago | (#29031053)

"Investing in space tourism is investing in cheap access to space."

Yes, and?

Space is, by definition, a vacuum. A large empty hole filled with a whole lot of nothing.

What, precisely, do we gain by getting cheap access to cubic giga-miles of nothing?

Low gravity for manufacturing? Okay. What exactly are we going to manufacture that will justify the cost required to ship it up and down the well?

Solar radiation unfiltered by atmosphere? Okay. And after transferring to microwaves and building ground stations... why not just build solar cells on Earth?

Communications satellites? Sure, but we've got those already and filled up most of the GEO slots. Why do we need people there?

Excitement and fun for the obscenely rich? Okay. But how many multi-millionaires are there and what happens once they've all gone into orbit once?

Rocks and ores? Yes, but getting rocks down the well would either require expensive heavy-lift capacity or would be indistinguishable from orbital bombing, so creates a whole new category of weapon of mass destruction. And the ores we're likely to run out of soon on Earth are finnicky things like copper and cadmium and uranium. Are huge asteroids of boring nickel-iron actually *useful* except as a way of wiping continents off the map?

We'll use the space ore to build stuff in space, you say? Great. Why are we going to need space habitats to house? The miners? Excellent, then. A self-justifying economy with no return on investment. By the way, where are we going to get water and soil for those habitats from? Ice comets? Okay, but how are we getting out there? The Moon and Mars don't have much water, and what little they might have will be seized on by scientists looking for life before you can use it.

We'll fund it all with upfront investment and work it out later? Great, you just created the solar system's biggest speculative bubble and crash - or, if you then turn around to demand payment from your space colonists, you've just created a whole new generation of indentured space labour. Makes for a good Space Communist technothriller, but not good business sense.

We'll find weird space microbes on the Jovian moons then! And make medicines from them! Yes, well maybe we will and maybe we won't. There's no guarantee there's any life out there except ours. But gene-piracy seems like it might work - except, only if existing patent laws continue. What if gene patents go open-source in a few years?

Helium-3! We'll mine the Moon for it and later scoop Jupiter! Okay... but you need functioning fusion before Helium-3 is useful. We might get warp drive first. And even then, it might not pay for itself.

Warp drive! That's the ticket! Then we can find Earthlike biospheres and ransack them for new bioforms! Yes, that might work. Got a warp drive in your pocket anywhere? Or any theory that even suggests one is possible? Oh and then you'll have to deal with new diseases, but at least you'll have something resembling a Star Trek future. No warp drive... no space future, really.

But.... SPACE IS BIG you say! There so much stuff out there! There must be something! But Einstein says we can't get to much of any of it within a human lifetime. Big, empty, and slow. Or try your luck at kicking Einstein over. Major props if you can do that - many physicists have died trying.

Doing anything in space is orders of magnitude harder, riskier, slower, and more expensive and less fun than on Earth. Where's the orders of magnitude return? Heck, where's *any* return except for what we've got already: unmanned probes, satellites, and missiles?

Re:Once again ... (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026745)

I'll keep posting this, too, I guess:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broken_window_fallacy [wikipedia.org]

Interesting, but there are people who claim that the New Deal (and the big government spending that went with it) did not pull America out of the Great Depression. They say that instead it was WWII (and the big government spending that went with it), which is a bit of a contradiction.

The New Deal (or the space program) was not a broken window. WWII on the other hand was a big broken window, and you could have achieved a lot of the same effect by building all those carriers, destroyers, tanks and bombers and promptly dumping them in the sea. But you can't really compare that to a public works program or a space program where there are useful spin-offs, to say nothing of taking into account the wasted resources spent raising, rearing, and educating a generation of men who end up getting slaughtered.

As stimulus packages go, space exploration is a pretty good deal.

Re:Once again ... (1)

ianare (1132971) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027035)

... and at the end of WWII the previous superpower (Europe in general terms, though mainly England and France) was devastated by war. The newly created American factories were diverted from the war effort into the rebuilding effort, and a new superpower was born. There was a time when the US produced and manufactured most of the world's goods and food. THAT is what created the after-war boom years. The new deal however, laid much of the groundwork to make this possible.

Also remember that WWII was a relatively short war, especially for the US. A short war can have some economic advantage, as long as you win of course. A protracted war will always lead to economic problems, even for the victor (see : the current Iraq war and its role in the economic crisis).

Re:Once again ... (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29029341)

... and at the end of WWII the previous superpower (Europe in general terms, though mainly England and France) was devastated by war. The newly created American factories were diverted from the war effort into the rebuilding effort, and a new superpower was born. There was a time when the US produced and manufactured most of the world's goods and food. THAT is what created the after-war boom years. The new deal however, laid much of the groundwork to make this possible.

Also remember that WWII was a relatively short war, especially for the US. A short war can have some economic advantage, as long as you win of course. A protracted war will always lead to economic problems, even for the victor (see : the current Iraq war and its role in the economic crisis).

True. War can have unexpected positive outcomes though. Germany's rail network was obliterated and they were able to build it from scratch to suit current needs. England's came out a bit better, so the current network is stuck with the old bottlenecks that it always had since Victorian times. To this day the Brits have a hard time getting their trains to run on time, the Germans find it a lot easier.

Re:Once again ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29027201)

WWII was not as broken a window as you say it was. War (at least, modern war) is one of the few instances where technological prowess is 1) required for survival and 2) seen as such by an overwhelming majority of the people involved.

That was kind of why the space race worked - it was part of the Cold War. If the Chinese announced they were going to Mars and we cared enough about tech superiority to stop them, you'd better believe we'd go to Mars as well, no matter how useless or dangerous. Right now, however, there is nothing that obviously forces our survival to be dependent on advancement, which is probably why there isn't a lot of it - we're not going to Mars. We're in caution mode.

You are absolutely right about the space investment being a good deal however - it's probably one of the best investments we've made. I am kind of ashamed that it takes war and threat to get people moving on these things.

Re:Once again ... (1)

lennier (44736) | more than 4 years ago | (#29030749)

"One day people will get it into their heads that money spent on the space program is spent pretty much exclusively on Earth where jobs are created, new technologies are developed, and countless other economic and social spin-offs are generated."

Are they, though?

I mean, yes of course that money is spent "on Earth" strictly speaking... but what it is spent *doing*? It's spent paying very specialised engineers to create very specialised one-off hardware which is tossed into space and thrown away. In the case of Apollo, even much of that Earth-based knowledge component *was* literally thrown away when the Shuttle became the new hotness. And now that Ares is the new hotness... and don't forget the X-30 National Aerospace Plane which Ronald Reagan said would be a "new Orient Express" and sat there burning a hole in the black budget for a couple decades.... is this knowledge building on anything? Is it going anywhere? *Why* is it important to be able to build rockets, other than to learn how to build better rockets?

It's often *claimed* that space research has spinoffs - but is that in fact true, and if true, is it relevant? Are the spinoffs in any reasonable proportion to the money spent? It's directly false in the case of Tang [wikipedia.org] and it's also not the case for Teflon [wikipedia.org] . These products were invented outside the space program and became associated with it - but they weren't spinoffs. Any high-tech endeavour would have created them. Why space?

If we employed a bunch of very smart people here on Earth to build a castle made out of cheese, we'd also promote a lot of rapid development in dairy-related construction techniques, and that money would recirculate back into local economies - etc, etc, etc. But we generally expect a bit more from a big project than just "people got paid and it doesn't matter what they got paid to do".

Re:Once again ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29025901)

Queen Isabella plans on providing a yearly allowance of 12,000 maravedis and providing three ocean-worthy vessels to seed new, trans-Atlantic commercial routes to the Orient. ... More spoils of war that 99% of the gentry will never see. How is this gonna help me expand my feudal holdings?

Re:Once again ... (1)

mc1138 (718275) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025951)

It's going to shoot it to the moon! Or at least low earth orbit...

Re:Once again ... (5, Insightful)

wjousts (1529427) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026171)

Believe it or not, but the stimulus isn't supposed to pad your 401k, it's supposed to create jobs.

Re:Once again ... (1)

Wizworm (782799) | more than 4 years ago | (#29030713)

it's supposed to create jobs.

How'd that work out for you

Someone has to build the vehicles (4, Interesting)

hellfire (86129) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026237)

First, engineers and scientists get jobs, and practice their craft. And do you think the scientists and engineers assembled the rockets with Erector sets in their own private labs? No, they had manufacturers build the parts and the craft. You have small manufacturers building the parts, and large ones assembling the pieces, with distributors in the middle moving the material and making sure it's all on time and available when needed.

And then those people go home and spend their money on stuff...

The best kind of stimulus is the kind of stimulus that puts people in jobs. And if you think space taxis are nothing but an idea for the very rich to go into space, just realize that the next thing we need to figure out in space is how to get people into space both safely and cheaply. Hey, get people safely and cheaply into space? That means more satellites, more repairs, more tourism for the common man, more economic opportunities.

Re:Someone has to build the vehicles (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29026303)

... just realize that the next thing we need to figure out in space is how to get people into space both safely and cheaply. Hey, get people safely and cheaply into space? That means more satellites, more repairs, more tourism for the common man, more economic opportunities.

and more cost to the taxpayers ... did i sign on for this waste of money? i'd prefer that private investors footed the bill ... if they want it they can pay for it ... i don't think it's a good time for my tax dollar to be paying for a "space taxis"

sorry i don't like other people spending my money

Re:Someone has to build the vehicles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29027457)

i'd prefer that private investors footed the bill

But they are! ...every single one of them...

That will not happen. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29026469)

Most of the money goes into the pockets of the executives.

$50 million is nothing. That money will be eaten up by administrative functions.

Re:Someone has to build the vehicles (0, Redundant)

G33kGuy (1152863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026727)

So you are saying that a stimulus to have a huge amount of people dump water from one ocean to the other with buckets would be a good stimulus because it would provide jobs?

Re:Someone has to build the vehicles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29026905)

mod up

Re:Someone has to build the vehicles (1)

rotide (1015173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027097)

So you are saying that dumping water from one ocean to another would potentially lead to the development of new technologies? Or further the development of ideas already on the table? Or potentially create a profitable business ferrying people and/or objects into orbit/space?

What happens, if the off chance happens, and humans develop a super cheap and efficient means to getting into space due to this program? What happens if it becomes just as cheap to get into space as it does to fly a cargo jet around the country? Or, more realistically, it just becomes a fraction of the cost it does today?

But I guess you were just trying to be witty with your analogy, but it just doesn't hold water. Sorry.

Re:Someone has to build the vehicles (1)

G33kGuy (1152863) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027545)

I should have quoted the post. I was referring to the statement "The best kind of stimulus is the kind of stimulus that puts people in jobs." I wasn't disputing the usefulness of this stimulus.

Re:Someone has to build the vehicles (1)

pseudorand (603231) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027937)

> just realize that the next thing we need to figure out in space is how to get people into space both safely and cheaply.

No, the next thing we need to figure out is why the hell anyone would want to go to space (save the novelty of it). Until we terraform the moon, mine on the asteroid belt or develop cost-effective agriculture on a space station, there is no practical reason to go to space and surely nothing to justify spending my hard-earned $$$ on it. I always been a liberal democrat but this is enough to make me switch sides.

Re:Someone has to build the vehicles (1)

Yetihehe (971185) | more than 4 years ago | (#29028653)

just realize that the next thing we need to figure out in space is how to get people into space both safely and cheaply.

No, the next thing we need to figure out is why the hell anyone would want to go to space (save the novelty of it). Until we terraform the moon, mine on the asteroid belt or develop cost-effective agriculture on a space station, there is no practical reason to go to space and surely nothing to justify spending my hard-earned $$$ on it.

If we can't go cheaply into space, how can we terraform moon or mine asteroid belt? FIRST you have to have cheap space travel, THEN you can mine asteroid belt economically.

Re:Someone has to build the vehicles (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29028825)

I agree. For that matter, why does the government invest in museums? What's the point of going to a museum, save the novelty of it? Do you really learn any more from looking at a dinosaur skeleton in person than you would looking at one in a book, or on the internet? Close the Smithsonians, I say!

Re:Someone has to build the vehicles (1)

fiannaFailMan (702447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29029483)

> just realize that the next thing we need to figure out in space is how to get people into space both safely and cheaply.

No, the next thing we need to figure out is why the hell anyone would want to go to space (save the novelty of it). Until we terraform the moon, mine on the asteroid belt or develop cost-effective agriculture on a space station, there is no practical reason to go to space and surely nothing to justify spending my hard-earned $$$ on it. I always been a liberal democrat but this is enough to make me switch sides.

What is the point of a baby?

Re:Someone has to build the vehicles (2, Insightful)

wasabu (1502975) | more than 4 years ago | (#29028029)

The best kind of stimulus is the kind of stimulus that puts people in jobs.

Load of nonsense. Bleeding the money from private enterprise (ie taxes) to 'stimulate' parts of the economy only takes money away from other parts. This is called misallocation of capital because the power of the market is stifled, and always leads to LOSS of jobs, because the 'economy' of money is put in the hands of idiots. The desires and needs of millions of people are at the root of a truely free market. A handful of useless beurocrats by definition cannot best allocate capital. "Stimulus" is just a new word for the same old trick of stealing public money to line the pockets of your friends. Every dollar of capital misallocation will prolong Depression 2.0. If there is a market for space travel (between paycheques), private enterprise will find it and do it efficiently, for far less.

Buy your burgers. (3, Funny)

boeroboy (1501771) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026269)

You'll see that money when the engineers who win the contest lay down an Abe Lincoln in front of you at McDonalds.

Your employer will never see the money they spent on you while you were on slashdot either.

Re:Once again ... (3, Interesting)

GameMaster (148118) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026773)

Of course, 99% of the middle class won't see it. $50 million is a drop in the bucket considering, both, the size of the US budget and the population of the country. Even if it were divided evenly, a dollar each, there wouldn't be enough to go around. However, there is a good chance that, assuming you aren't too old, this might boost your 401k in time for your retirement.

The US, simply, can't compete against much of the rest of the world at most of the traditional industries. Our quality of life is too high and would have to nose-dive to make us competitive. The places that we've always dominated, since WWII when we really first developed a middle class with above average quality of life, have been high-tech such as computers, pharmaceuticals, materials science, etc. As we move forward, it's inevitable that other countries will start to catch up in some of those places and out population will continue to grow.

In order to stay competitive we need to continue to advance our most competitive industries and seek out new ones that revolutionize life enough such that they become the next "semiconductor industry". One example is the development of new/economical energy generation/transport methods such as Nuclear/solar/wind/"clean coal"/bio-fuel/wave/geothermal/fuel cells/batteries/etc. Another example, more applicable to this discussion, is commercialized space travel.

We've reached a point where the price of space travel is withing "spitting distance" of being cheap enough for commercial ventures to develop their own vehicle/stations. There are already a number of start-ups that are flirting with it such as Virgin Galactic developing a sub-orbital vehicle and Bigilow Aaerospace designing fractional size prototype space stations but implementing vehicles capable of re-entry and full size/fully functional stations will be much, much more expensive. Government grants are a way to accelerate the development of this technology and, potentially, open up the field to a broader market faster in the same way the plumitting cost of semiconductors in the 80's made it possible for everyone in the country to have a computer on their desk within a decade or so instead of just big companies/colleges having expensive supercomputers.

Right now, the only, practical, uses for space travel are communications satellites, military, GPS, and pure research. Sure, there have been a few tourist that have been lucky enough to go to the ISS, but even at the high prices they've paid, they don't represent a realistic "industry". If we could get the cost of entry to drop by an order of magnitude (which is realistic to expect when you take it out of the hands of a military-like organization like NASA, implement the most modern tech, and increase the number of flights to take advantage of economies of scale) then it should open up all sorts of other growth markets for things like tourism, power generation/transmission, commercial materials science development/production, and the mining of things like the moon and asteroids for rare materials.

So, sinking a mere $50 million (mere in government terms as well as relation to what it takes to get anything of significance done in today's world, of course) is a small price to pay if it can help someone like Burt Rutan produce a low cost vehicle that opens up a revolutionary new industry to help re-grow the economy.

uh-oh (-1, Offtopic)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025633)

I sense Luddite/Republican/Libertarian outrage coming on (not that I've got a personal problem with most Luddites/Republicans/Libertarians). What do you want to bet we'll get Sarah Palin complaining about this in a week?

Re:uh-oh (1, Funny)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025695)

I expect Palin will be going around telling everyone about the new amendment to the health care plan that involves using these space taxis to shoot old people into the Sun so we don't have to pay for their health care.

Re:uh-oh (0, Troll)

truthsearch (249536) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025735)

"You betchya!"

Sarah Palin can see the sun from her house in Alaska, so she feels she's qualified to discuss space commercialization.

Re:uh-oh (1)

Icegryphon (715550) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026105)

0/10
Are you even trying?
Or are you just mentally ill?

Re:uh-oh (1)

religious freak (1005821) | more than 4 years ago | (#29028407)

Are you aware of her "death squads" comment? GP was making an satirical analogy (and IMHO, a fairly valid one) about her comments related to the health care bill, which were completely incongruous with fact. I really miss the old Republican party... I could actually vote for them occasionally.

Re:uh-oh (1)

thecross (1313393) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026333)

Something tells me shooting an old person into the sun would be at least several orders of magnitude times more expensive than their health care.

Re:uh-oh (1)

drukawski (1083675) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027673)

So basically your saying the government needs a +4 trainer with infinite power and ore cheats. I suppose next you'll ask for instant build time and no cool downs on our super weapons.

Re:uh-oh (2, Funny)

Froboz23 (690392) | more than 4 years ago | (#29030127)

The escape velocity for Earth is only 7 miles per second. With advanced railgun technology, it might be possible to launch a human into the sun at a surprisingly affordable price, once the up-front R&D investment is made. A military grade railgun today can fire a 2kg projectile at 3km/s with 9MJ of energy. To fire a 75kg human at 11.2km/s would require 1.26 GJ of energy, so clearly more research is needed. Unfortunately, I'm not sure if a railgun would work on biological material. It may be necessary to coax the person into a metallic capsule that would be more responsive to the railgun's electrical field.

As an added bonus, this all-electrical solution is also environmentally friendly. No potentially hazardous rocket propellants to deal with, and the energy to fire the railgun could be generated during off-peak hours to further reduce costs. I think this solution would be far more economical than using conventional chemical-based rocket propulsion to launch old people into the sun.

Re:uh-oh (2, Insightful)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025845)

I'm sure Republicans and Libertarians are all in favor of private space taxis, whether NASA helps create the technology or others do. Having the government with a monopoly on space taxis is different from private taxis services.

Re:uh-oh (2, Interesting)

jedidiah (1196) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026085)

Nevermind the NeoCons.

Space tourism seems to be a thing best left to the robber barons. They seem to be doing a better job of it.

50M is a pittance and NASA needs all it can get for it's own R&D type projects.

How about a lets-triple-NASAs-budget stimulus package?

Re:uh-oh (1)

WinPimp2K (301497) | more than 4 years ago | (#29029801)

NASA will have three reasons for doing this:

1> they will indeed spend all the money on Admin costs (remember what NASA is an acronym for - esp the last letter)
2> NASA has a vested interest in maintaining their monopoly (they don't have one - but they think they do) on manned spaceflight - so all proposed Space Taxis will be deemed unworkable.
3> After filing off the serial numbers, NASA will steal any good ideas and massage them into something that will require 5 - 10 years of increasingly expensive studies - to be funded at taxpayer expense now that those pesky entrepreurs have been dealt with.

The Germans invented this first (1)

Corporate Troll (537873) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025669)

Space Taxi [youtube.com] ....

Hey! Taxi! (2, Funny)

amiga3D (567632) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025717)

I fondly remember killing thousands of passengers on my 64.

Re:Hey! Taxi! (1)

hamburger lady (218108) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026173)

passengers will have to say in a computer voice "pad five, please"

Re:Hey! Taxi! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29027755)

At first I thought 64 meant Commodore 64... yeah get off my anonymous lawn.

Re:Hey! Taxi! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29030673)

it most certainly did

Direct benefits, no; indirect, yes (5, Informative)

zorro-z (1423959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025747)

It's worth nothing that, while few people are directly involved w/the space program, the space program has historically had indirect benefits which have benefited society. To list a few (from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NASA_spin-off [wikipedia.org] ):

Health and Medicine
Light-Emitting Diodes (LEDs) (2005)
Infrared Ear Thermometers (1991)
DeBakey's Ventricular Assist Device (VAD) (2002)
Artificial Limbs (2005)

Transportation
Aircraft Anti-Icing Systems (2007)
Highway Safety Grooving (1985)
Improved Radial Tires (1976)
Chemical Detection (2007)

Public Safety
Video Enhancing and Analysis Systems (2001)
Land Mine Removal (2000)
Fire-Resistant Reinforcement (2006)
Firefighting Equipment (1976 onwards)

Consumer, Home, and Recreation
Temper Foam (1976-2005)
Enriched Baby Food (1996, 2008)
Portable Cordless Vacuums (1981)
Freeze Drying Technology (1976, 1994)

Environmental and Agricultural Resources
Water Purification (1995, 2006)
Solar Energy (2005)
Pollution Remediation (1994, 2006)

Computer Technology
Better Virtual Software (2005)
Structural Analysis (1976-1998)
Internet-Connected Ovens (2005)

Industrial Productivity
Powdered Lubricants (2005)
Improved Mine Safety (1978-2008)
Food Safety Systems (1991)

Re:Direct benefits, no; indirect, yes (1)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025913)

Ah yes, I remember the dark time before internet-connected ovens where cooking and looking at porn were separate actives. Thank God for NASA.

Re:Direct benefits, no; indirect, yes (0)

morgan_greywolf (835522) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025921)

Not to discount your list, but space taxis will provide indirect benefits exactly how? There's just no new technology to be gained from shipping people into orbit and bringing them back; where we need to be pushing frontiers is in the colonization of space and on planets and other potentially-inhabitable bodies, such as moons.

I don't see space taxis accomplishing that.

Re:Direct benefits, no; indirect, yes (3, Insightful)

zorro-z (1423959) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026175)

You are making an assumption: namely, that no new technology would be involved in the creation of these 'space taxis.' In other words, you appear to be assuming that a space taxi would be nothing more than a rebranded, perhaps smaller, Space Shuttle.

But perhaps a space taxi could resemble one which launches from a tanker flying at high altitude. Perhaps it could involve ramjets rather than liquid or solid fuel rockets. Or, perhaps more likely, it could involve an entirely new technology.

The idea of developing new technology is also, in and of itself, a major benefit of the space program, in that developing new technology will likely require us to also educate a new generation of engineers. It's no co-incidence that Pres. Kennedy's challenge to land a man on the moon + return him safely to earth also yielded a bumper crop of enthusiastic young engineers. This group of engineers is now reaching retirement age, and if the US is to retain its economic position, it needs to replace these engineers w/a new generation.

Full disclosure: I'm a computer engineer, from a family of engineers. I also went to Space Camp. Twice.

Re:Direct benefits, no; indirect, yes (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29026739)

Get a grip spaz. The '60s are over and engineering students are a dime a dozen.

Noone is interested in space anymore. Been there done that. Complete yawnsville. We can do more with less by sending probes. That will get us more information than any man flight with the added benefit of not risking someone's life.

We don't need to spend 100 of billions of dollars and wait decades just to get some "indirect" invention like light-bright. Seriously, where have you been living lately? We are seeing all kinds of technological advances and changes. None of them due to the space program. None of them need the space program.

The REAL engineering challenges are right here on earth. Stop being a day dreamer and rollup your sleeves and address today's issues. Global Warming for example or if that is too mundane then how about cleaning CO2 from the atmosphere. How about scrubbing CO2 from coal plants. How about improving batter life, and shrinking batter size to be used in cars. How about developing algae as a fuel source for cars. How about removing heavy metals from our drinking supply and the oceans.

Seriously they are sooo many problems right here on the plant that need practical solutions.

Forget space and deal with Earth for once.

Thing is, the solutions to Earth's problems would actually go along way to solving some of the problems with space travel.

Re:Direct benefits, no; indirect, yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29026943)

How about improving battery life, and shrinking battery size to be used in cars.

1950: There's no money to be made in that. Lead-acid is good enough for any commercial battery.

1951: Offer me a gazillion bucks to build a battery light enough to fly on a space probe, on the other hand, and I'll start playing with that chunk of lithium over there.

Re:Direct benefits, no; indirect, yes (2, Insightful)

Praseodymn (195411) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026241)

Every time any NASA proposal has come up, people always make your point. Just because you can't imagine what useful thing will come from this proposal does not mean it won't exist. It just means that it's beyond your imagination. Furthermore, one could reasonably suppose that your argument had been brought up before any of the missions that yielded the useful technologies listed on this list; had those arguments been listened to, we would have none of the technologies, thus the oc's point.

Re:Direct benefits, no; indirect, yes (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29026343)

This list is not too impressive, considering the cost/benefit ratio and thr overall impact of human life generally.

Not this again... (1)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#29028579)

Most of those 'benefits' have nothing to do with the space program other than they were developed at an agency that also happens to run the space program.
 
The NASA PAO is also a past master at making it appear that NASA developed technology, when in reality all NASA did was applied research on already existing technology. (For example, freeze drying - first commercially used back in the 1930's!)
 
The magazine reference in your link (Spinoffs) is very aptly titled - because it's mostly spin.

What if... (1)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025761)

This is almost reminiscent of the 5th element with Bruce Willis where he drives a cab in the future, which allows to go into space etc...
all I can say, is I welcome our Taxi driving overlords

Re:What if... (1)

FCAdcock (531678) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026439)

Hey, if I get my own LeeLoo, I don't care how much money is spent!

Re:What if... (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026993)

This is almost reminiscent of the 5th element with Bruce Willis where he drives a cab in the future, which allows to go into space etc...

Well, Bruce certainly drove a cab. But, alas, the cab he drove couldn't go into space. Which was why he had to "win" that contest to get the tickets to go to that other planet. Which were then stolen, restolen, etc....

Re:What if... (1)

Holi (250190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027057)

Did you actually see the movie, because his taxi did not go into space. He used a completely different ship for space travel.

Handy (3, Funny)

kevinNCSU (1531307) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025849)

This will come in really handy all those times I have too much to drink and need to get back to my Secret Moon Base.

And maybe once they figure this out they can build a working escalator at the Reagan Metro stop. Or maybe the Space Taxi's can just moonlight moving luggage up to the platform.

Re:Handy (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027237)

This will come in really handy all those times I have too much to drink and need to get back to my Secret Moon Base.

Oh look who's Mr. Responsible, not flying drunk!

Or are you telling me they have police checkpoints in orbit now? Fuck, I knew it was only a matter of time!

Re:Handy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29029065)

Secret Moon Base? Did you manage to rent space with Google at the Copernicus Center?

Just remember that all your gas bills are paid up when you're there...

Where do I get my Multipass? (1)

bodland (522967) | more than 4 years ago | (#29025991)

My friend Leloo needs one.

how fast will it go? (1)

iveygman (1303733) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026075)

The important question is: can these taxis make the Kessel Run in under 12 parsecs?

As if I didn't have enough trouble... (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026215)

Hailing a Cab when its 5 yards away, and now they want to put them in SPACE?

Actually, they do not (3, Informative)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026283)

This is a minimal amount of money for human rated launchers. Between SpaceX and Scaled Composites, this IS coming (Though to be honest, I would really like to see SpaceDev finish their work on their h-20).

What really IS needed IS a space taxi AND a tug. Russia has the idea correct. Augustine should be pushing Obama/NASA to buy several Bigelows to attach to the ISS. First buy the sundancer and attach it to the ISS to hold cargo (keep hatch closed except when needing to access). Then buy a BA-330 for human space. That is all that is needed to get them going in orbit. These are perfect for playing space taxis, if we attach a tug to these.

Plans (2)

Absolut187 (816431) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026327)

It is unclear what other Commodore 64 games NASA plans on making a reality, but I hope Arkanoid makes the short list.

C'mon, Caveman Olympics!!
The wife toss was awesome. I think NASA could make that happen for well under $50 million.

Re:Plans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29028125)

Caveman Ugh-lympics was awesome! One of my all time favorite games. The mate-toss was awesome, especially the butch cave woman who tossed her geeky husband!

Re:Plans (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29028355)

Elite or Frontier: Elite II (I know... it's not a c64 game)...

Dear Mr. President (-1, Troll)

jimmyfrank (1106681) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026483)

I found 50 million dollars you can use to fund your health care reform program.

Taxation without representation. (0, Troll)

zymano (581466) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026551)

Taxing from hardworking real middle class to give some government agency to BURN our money is ridiculously CRIMINAL.

The way Congress manipulates our taxes to BUY VOTES is wrong.

Re:Taxation without representation. (1)

grayshirtninja (1242690) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027821)

Don't you mean taxiation [instantrimshot.com] ?

You can't smell a cabby in a pressure suit (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29026903)

There are some drivers in NYC whose body odor will make your eyes water.

nostalgic... (1)

whopub (1100981) | more than 4 years ago | (#29026957)

hope Arkanoid makes the short list.

Ah, Arkanoid, the single player version of pong. I really miss that one.

Hey taxi! (1)

kumichou (468416) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027027)

Pad one please

Re:Hey taxi! (1)

HomelessInLaJolla (1026842) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027947)

Amen!

Up please!

Or, when running over a potential customer: "Hey! Hey! Hey!"

Dragon (2, Interesting)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027063)

Seems like SpaceX's Dragon capsule is a good start in that direction already. It's intended to carry seven to/from the ISS.

And it has the advantage of being under development already, and under construction already.

Squeezing money from a vacuum (1)

HTH NE1 (675604) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027137)

In space, no one can hear you ka-ching!

Another way to work? (1)

CandyKisses (942667) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027449)

They came up with this option in case you wanted to get to your job on Klaxon 5 a littler faster than you would by taking the space subway.

More wasting money (0, Troll)

tehdude2000 (1608359) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027643)

NASA is whining that their budget is too small to complete the Constellation program and then they waste money on pie-in-the-sky crap like this. Stimulus money or not this should have gone to something FAR more practical

Cash-For-Clunkers conspiracy (0)

adosch (1397357) | more than 4 years ago | (#29027685)

I bet this is the government's conspiracy theory secret plan to flip all those 'cash-for-clunkers' cars for good use and pocket the $50 Billion on booze, hookers and free lunches.

Not a good idea. (0)

catmistake (814204) | more than 4 years ago | (#29028183)

There are cheaper ways to risk your life for a thrill. Space, everyone seems to forget, is the most dangerous (and expensive) place a human can be. Tourism revenue just doesn't cut it for a reason to do this.

This Isn't a Bad Idea (1)

denmarkw00t (892627) | more than 4 years ago | (#29028755)

The economy is terrible, and some may say "WE'RE SPENDING MONIES ON SPACE TAXIS WTF?!?" But, the fact is, the people need to spend to stimulate the economy. Unfortunately, we need to be a LITTLE less frugal in order to help the economy. If NASA can put the ride prices at, say, $50 - less would be better of course, maybe sell 10 tickets at $20 per ride - then hopefully they could convince Joe the Plumber types to go on a ride to space. That is the price of a local venue show ticket, and apparently live music ticket sales are doing swell. If they can get people to do this, they can help stimulate the economy - but it has to be cheap, accessible, and interesting.

The other factor that would help is advertising: NASA tells you you are helping the economy AND that your money helps fund new research and technology - and really, if they want it to work, they'll HAVE to invest in more efficient ways to get to space, and in theory that tech would trickle down to the general manufacturing industry and help bolster our economy by making cheaper products of higher quality to export.

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