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Future of NASA's Manned Spaceflight Looks Bleak

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the send-out-the-machines dept.

Space 452

coondoggie writes "Things don't look good for NASA when the report outlining its future begins: 'The US human spaceflight program appears to be on an unsustainable trajectory. [NASA] is perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources. Space operations are among the most complex and unforgiving pursuits ever undertaken by humans. It really is rocket science. Space operations become all the more difficult when means do not match aspirations.' Today the Augustine Commission handed to the White House the Review of US Human Space Flight Plans Committee summary report, after months of expert review and testimony. Many observers expected a bleak report, but ultimately the future of US manned space flight will hinge on how the report's conclusions are interpreted. Keep in mind too that NASA has spent almost $8 billion of a planned $40 billion to develop systems for a return to the Moon."

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Return? (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29359681)

Where's the proof of any previous moon landing?

Re:Return? (2, Funny)

Trogre (513942) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359875)

All the stuff they did?

Re:Return? (2, Funny)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360009)

Those moonrocks were obviously fabrications of a global Illuminati/Jewish/Freemason/Scientologist/Cowboyneal conspiracy. Everybody knows that ;)

Re:Return? (3, Interesting)

Korbeau (913903) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360083)

Which rocks [slashdot.org] are you talking about? ;)

How can you... (5, Insightful)

sgage (109086) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359697)

... fund a manned space program when you blow all your resources on worthless, unnecessary wars?

Why is it we can afford a f***ing trillion dollars on the f***ing wars, and not put together a credible space program?

I guess there's no profit in it, and our state religion won't allow that. That's why we're not only not going to have a manned space program. It's why we're fucked as a nation in general.

It's just mind-boggling, but there it is.

Re:How can you... (1, Insightful)

Trogre (513942) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359783)

Which religion would that be? I can tell you it sure as hell isn't Christianity.

Re:How can you... (5, Informative)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359839)

I think he means worship of the almighty dollar.

Re:How can you... (4, Insightful)

WalksOnDirt (704461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359843)

I think he's referring to the pursuit of the almighty dollar as our state religion.

Re:How can you... (5, Insightful)

sgage (109086) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359861)

Not Christianity.

More like Christo-Rightwing-uber-corporate fascism.

Which has nothing to do with real Christianity, though the practitioners thereof often make loud noises about their Christianity. Hypocritical lying sacks of shit that they are.

Re:How can you... (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29360027)

Our Father, who art in heaven,
        Hallowed be thy Name.
        Thy kingdom come.
        Thy will be done,
        On earth as it is in heaven.
        Give us this day our daily bread.
        And forgive us our trespasses,
        As we forgive those who trespass against us.
        And lead us not into temptation,
        But deliver us from evil.

        Amen.

That's what real Christianity is. I left out the part about "kingdom... power... blah blah" since it wasn't in the earliest versions of the text and I think it weakens the simplicity of this prayer.

I take Christianity as a religion which says that the right way to live in a world where human error is inevitable is to forgive others readily for their errors and seek to make amends for one's own errors. The behavior of the "Christian" right in America is completely contrary to this concept.

Re:How can you... (5, Insightful)

Entropius (188861) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360397)

I'd add to that:

"Blessed are the poor in spirit,
            for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  Blessed are those who mourn,
            for they will be comforted.
  Blessed are the meek,
            for they will inherit the earth.
  Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
            for they will be filled.
  Blessed are the merciful,
            for they will be shown mercy.
  Blessed are the pure in heart,
            for they will see God.
  Blessed are the peacemakers,
            for they will be called sons of God.
  Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
            for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Re:How can you... (3, Insightful)

Judinous (1093945) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360363)

It sure as hell is Christianity holding back the space program. It all has to do with their long-term view of humanity's future:

Atheists realize that every species becomes either space-faring, or extinct. The Earth will not be around forever.

Christians believe that they will be abducted by a sky-zombie and taken to fairy-land. It says so right in this book!

Their views on space funding make sense when you understand where they are coming from, but that doesn't make it a rational or valid stance.

Re:How can you... (2, Interesting)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359791)

Well, arguably, a nation that doesn't turn a profit will see things like -- well, like last year. Yes, I know that's an oversimplification, but still. If you let the nation's economy go down the tubes, it will have pretty bad effects.

Having said that, I have personally a strong belief in non-profit scientific expenditures. And if the US wants to maintain its role as a superpower, there is really no alternative. It has to produce some results -- not just profit -- if it wants to be seen as the leader of the world.

Re:How can you... (1)

ThreeE (786934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359849)

How do you define results in a way that doesn't imply profit over some period of time?

Re:How can you... (2, Interesting)

Entropius (188861) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360409)

When things became untenable for the Jews in Germany during the 1930's, people like Einstein chose the US as a place to emigrate to. Of all the countries that some of the world's top scientists could have fled to, they came to the USA.

*That* sort of results -- building that sort of country.

Re:How can you... (4, Insightful)

hairyfeet (841228) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360095)

What I don't get is why we don't just buy some Soyuz spacecraft [wikipedia.org] off the Russians and be done with it. The Soyuz has a proven track record, the damned things are built like tanks, it is solid and dependable.

I think it is pretty clear by now that Ares is turning out to be a giant clusterfuck, and we lost all the plans for Apollo and the Saturn 5 from what I understand, so why waste billions on something that will never fly, when we have proven technology that we can buy for a HELL of a lot cheaper than Ares? I'm sure the Russians will be more than happy to take some cash from us, and we can get all the rockets our little hearts desire. Hell I'm sure for the right price the Russians will even sell us plans so we can build our own spare parts, even our own Soyuz, but it would be probably cheaper to use their already existing facilities to manufacture them.

Just seems like a win/win to me and a hell of a lot more sensible than pissing money down a rat hole for something that will most likely end up shitcanned anyway.

Re:How can you... (1, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360281)

A "win/win" would be abandoning manned space flight and advancing space exploration (which is different from "human sustainment experiments") for rapid development of robot systems which can much more quickly advance both what we know about space and how we may exploit offworld resources.

I'd like to see our manned programs fail so badly that we are forced to do the smart thing and not send meat tourists into space for many years. For the billions we waste on systems whose costs are bloated by the need to carry and return humans, we could send MANY robot systems. Since the hostile climate of space means humans must be physically isolated from it to perform tasks, they may as well be in a control room on Terra.

Re:How can you... (5, Interesting)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360295)

What I don't get is why we don't just buy some Soyuz spacecraft [wikipedia.org] off the Russians and be done with it.

Because buying Soyuz wouldn't create many jobs in Florida and Texas. The manned spaceflight side of NASA is a jobs program which just happens to occasionally put some people into space.

Re:How can you... (4, Informative)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360303)

and we lost all the plans for Apollo and the Saturn 5 from what I understand,

Urban legend. http://tafkac.org/science/saturn_v_blueprints.html [tafkac.org]

They're on microfilm at the Marshall Space Flight Center

Re:How can you... (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29360359)

Because the Soyuz is OMG COMMUNIST spacecraft, silly!

Re:How can you... (4, Insightful)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360433)

we lost all the plans for Apollo and the Saturn 5

Not quite. According to Henry Spencer, what we lost was not the plans, but the know-how to turn the plans into hardware.

There is a whole lot of undocumented know-how. Suppose you want to build some part. What kind of heat treatment was used on the metal? Are you certain you know the exact alloy used, or what might change by using a slightly different alloy? How did the master machinist shape the part... did he have some sort of custom jig, and if so, what did it look like? It's too late to ask him; that was 40 years ago, and you probably can't find him now.

We could, with great effort and cost, recover all this missing know-how, being certain to test everything at every step to make sure we know what we are really doing. And if we did all that, the end result would be a 40-year-old design. We know more now, and we could improve on the design; and the amount of time and money it would cost to reproduce the Saturn V is probably similar to what it would cost to develop a new launch system.

http://www.faqs.org/faqs/space/controversy/ [faqs.org]

In any event, what we really need is not another Saturn V. We need a cheap and reliable way to put small payloads into orbit over and over and over. A "space pickup truck" if you will. You can do almost everything by sending up modules and assembling them in orbit, and anything you can't do, you could handle with a few heavy-lift launches; and then use the pickup truck to send fuel, supplies, and crew up.

steveha

Re:How can you... (-1, Flamebait)

sp3d2orbit (81173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360299)

... fund a manned space program when you are planning to blow all your resources on worthless, unnecessary healthcare?

Why are we cutting back on manned space flight while proposing to spend trillions of dollars on public healthcare? A few billion dollars to ensure the future of our species is being traded in so that every fat-ass, diabetic, smoking drinker can get all the healthcare they "deserve".

Stop sending humans... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29359703)

Why send people to The Moon or Mars anyway, except for bragging rights? Robots only need sunlight to flourish!

Plus, if we send 'em all to space, no risk of running into any robotic overlord problems....right?

Re:Stop sending humans... (2, Interesting)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359819)

The reason would be thinking really long term. As in, on a scale of hundreds, maybe thousands of years.

No, of course sending people to the Moon or Mars will not produce "profit" (in the financial sense) on a scale of years or decades. But in the extreme long term, we'll have new worlds to populate, new planets to colonize.

We can't stay solely on Earth forever.

The end of being the space superpower (3, Insightful)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359755)

I think the most important thing can be crystallized:

Without more money, there will be no meaningful human space flight.

As for the details, I agree with the report where it says that Mars is not a good first destination. I concur that the Flexible Path scenario would be pretty smart. There's a wealth of information and experience to be made in exploring the Lagrange Points and Near-Earth Asteroids.

Basically, is the United States willing to cede space to China and Russia?

Re:The end of being the space superpower (4, Interesting)

Neon Aardvark (967388) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359825)

Without the usage of something other than chemical rockets, there will be no meaningful human space flight.

Every space agency should temporarily abandon manned space programs and pour the money they would have spent into propulsion research.

Re:The end of being the space superpower (1)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359863)

Without the usage of something other than chemical rockets, there will be no meaningful human space flight.

I don't concur with that. The Apollo program was implemented under chemical rockets.

Having said that, I fully agree that billions thrown in research for alternative propulsion methods would be spectacular.

Re:The end of being the space superpower (4, Insightful)

Neon Aardvark (967388) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359941)

I don't concur with that. The Apollo program was implemented under chemical rockets.

Apollo was meaningful because it was new. Doing the same thing again with the same vastly expensive inefficient technology would be pointless, and the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Getting humans further than the moon, and back again (eg to Mars and back) with chemical rockets is a joke. Never going to happen.

Re:The end of being the space superpower (2, Interesting)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359981)

Apollo was meaningful because it was new.

There were many other meaningful things to Apollo than just its newness. You may not believe space exploration to be inherently meaningful, but I for one do.

Doing the same thing again with the same vastly expensive inefficient technology would be pointless

I agree that doing the same thing would be pointless. Instead of just going, planting a flag and coming back home, we should be building an infrastructure in space that will eventually facilitate staying there.

Getting humans further than the moon, and back again (eg to Mars and back) with chemical rockets is a joke. Never going to happen.

I'm inclined to agree, but I didn't say anything about further than the moon. There's plenty of infrastructure to build inside the moon's orbit. Like our first space shipyard at a Lagrange Point.

Re:The end of being the space superpower (1)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359949)

Some would argue that a few guys walking/driving around on the Moon for a few days was not really 'meaningful'.
Meaningful at the time, yes. Long term? Not so much.

Re:The end of being the space superpower (2, Interesting)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360159)

Without the usage of something other than chemical rockets, there will be no meaningful human space flight.

What do you mean by "meaningful space flight"? There's still quite a lot of room for cost-efficiency with chemical rockets -- Elon Musk of SpaceX figures there's at least room for an order of magnitude of a price drop. IMHO, NASA should focus on getting the prices of chemical rockets to drop with things with things like commercial space transport procurement [thespacereview.com] , while using the money it saves to resume its efforts into developing new space technologies. Unfortunately, when the Ares I going overbudget, instead of canceling the Ares I they just canceled almost all of their (already sparse) technology development efforts.

Re:The end of being the space superpower (1)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360285)

Basically, is the United States willing to cede space to China and Russia?

More likely Japan, Europe and private industry.

The ESA and JAXA are doing impressive things. Bigelow Aerospace and SpaceX are both seemingly leading the private sector space industries and are doing so for a tiny fraction of the cost that NASA does things for. NASA needs to break free of its government contractor roots in order to ever do anything meaningful again with a sane budget.

Baseline shuttle extension (4, Interesting)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359775)

All the options presented to the White House will include shuttle extension in one form or another, however only Option 4B extends the shuttle beyond 2011 (you may remember the shuttle program was supposed to end in 2010). The arguments for extending the ISS beyond the currently deorbit date of 2016 are very attractive. It seems likely that US support for the station will continue until 2020, at least. With ISS extension comes commercial crew to orbit, but the committee seems convinced that this capability will not be available before 2015.

The administration needs to make 3 decisions:

* Get out of LEO or not. This is a non-decision, they have to or there's no program.
* Extend the shuttle to 2015 or not. This is an unlikely decision, the production lines are closed, restarting them is incredibly expensive.
* Return to the Moon or not. The whole "flexible path" thing is gaining traction, but its basically just a nice way of saying don't go anywhere, or stay there.. and the political capital of going back ot the Moon remains strong. In my mind this is a non-decision, we're going back to the Moon and on to Mars.

And so, with that I feel confident in saying that the White House will choose option 4A, in form if not in name, probably with some bonus thing tacked on the side.

Re:Baseline shuttle extension (5, Interesting)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359909)

The whole "flexible path" thing is gaining traction, but its basically just a nice way of saying don't go anywhere, or stay there

I don't really agree with that. Putting an ISS at a Lagrange Point would be far more stable and a 100x better long-term investment than putting an ISS in LEO.

Since an ISS at LEO will require *constant* re-boosting to keep its altitude (its orbit naturally decays about 20km lower every month and fuel needs to constantly be ferried up to keep it from falling down), but an ISS at a Lagrange Point would require trivial stationkeeping.

Therefore, an LP base makes more sense than a LEO base. Now, one could say that a Moon base makes more sense because it has raw materials available, but that is ignoring all the Near-Earth Asteroids, which could be reached from an LP at trivial fuel amounts. You can mine the NEOs just as well as you can mine the Moon, thus building a nifty base at an LP that would serve as a great staging ground for humans in space. No gravity well to descend into or try to get out of.

The #1 thing humanity should build is a mining/smelting/shipyard at a Lagrange Point. Before a moonbase, before anything else, really.

And Flexible Path accommodates those kinds of goals.

Re:Baseline shuttle extension (4, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359993)

Carrying any significant amount of raw materials from NEOs to an LP requires a lot more than "trivial" amounts of fuel.

The only way to practically move an NEO is by utilizing the mass of the NEO as fuel. The typical suggestion is to do this with mass drivers (you can't use ion engines because you need high thrust). If you're moving icy NEOs you can "just" make rocket fuel and propel it with traditional thrusters.

All of this is way beyond our technology level, and requires mass in orbit that we're unable to get from Earth.. so you need to mine the Moon for it in any case.

Re:Baseline shuttle extension (3, Informative)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360111)

Carrying any significant amount of raw materials from NEOs to an LP requires a lot more than "trivial" amounts of fuel.

The delta-v required once you've achieved Earth escape velocity, to the closest NEOs, is 0.8 km/s. That's *half* of what you need to get from lunar surface to lunar orbit, in other words the Apollo lander module's fuel supply would be enough for a trip to a NEO and back, once you've gotten out of Earth's gravity well.

All of this is way beyond our technology level

Not really. It just hasn't been tried yet because NASA, for all its achievements, isn't exactly a daring and innovative agency.

There's no big technological barrier preventing us from an L4 - NEO - L4 trip. It's totally within the realm of possibility. It only needs to be done.

Re:Baseline shuttle extension (2, Informative)

QuantumG (50515) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360215)

delta-v is irrelevant, you're comparing the millions of tons of raw material on the Moon with the minuscule amounts of raw material that you can get from an NEO with current rocket technology.

Or, let me put it another way, once you land on the Moon you have access to millions of tons of raw material for 0 delta-v.

Once you setup shop at a LP you have to spend delta-v every time you want some raw materials. That's why it is more sensible to talk about moving the NEO to the LP.. and that's the part that is way beyond our technological capabilities right now. Flying out to an NEO, planting a flag, leaving some footprints, sure.. you could do that with Apollo era technology, I guess, but what's the point?

Re:Baseline shuttle extension (1)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360249)

I agree that flag-planting missions are pointless. Unless something permanent is built, one might as well not do it.

You are correct, though, when you say that an L4/NEO mining station would have bigger long-term delta-v costs than a moonbase mining station.

Re:Baseline shuttle extension (3, Insightful)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360039)

Moving the ISS to a Lagrange Point would require an enormous amount of fuel, and getting that fuel to orbit. You would need to attach engines, and the station structure cannot handle the force. There is also currently no way of getting supplies and people there. The Space Shuttle cannot leave earth orbit. The ISS is also not built for the radiation outside the earths magnetosphere. Seriously, you cannot just take a spacecraft and put it somewhere it isn't made for.

Re:Baseline shuttle extension (1)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360155)

You're absolutely correct that moving the ISS itself is unfeasible. I meant building a new ISS, call it ISS-A if you want.

Yes, it would require massive amounts of tonnage to be lifted from Earth, but at least it would be a long-term investment that won't fall out of the sky someday like ISS will. Build it slower than the ISS for all I care, but something permanent needs to be built in space, and unless you get it to a Lagrange Point, it will be a wasted effort.

Re:Baseline shuttle extension (4, Informative)

Kartoffel (30238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360229)

Wherever humans end up going outside LEO, we're going to need good radiation shielding. The ISS is protected by Earth's magnetic field. Moon and the Lagrange points aren't.

There's also the problem of bone loss. ISS was originally supposed to have CAM, the centrifuge accomodation module. This would have been a dedicated lab that could spin to simulate lunar or martian gravity. Current medical science can only guess as to how 1/6th or 1/3rd gravity will affect bone mass. If it's as bad as zero gravity, human spaceflight is going to be even more challenging, but bottom line is we just don't know yet. With CAM on ISS, we could have at least collected some data points.

Re:Baseline shuttle extension (1)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360283)

Yeah, that's why we need to build bases at the LPs, so we can finally experiment and figure out if we can make artificial gravity work right to compensate for things like bone loss.

One of the possibilities for radiation shielding is picking an interesting NEO and burrowing inside it, letting its crust take care of the shielding. Or the moon. Either, really. A NEO would be easier to spin up for artificial gravity experiments, though.

Flexible Path (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360321)

Moving the ISS to a Lagrange Point would require an enormous amount of fuel, and getting that fuel to orbit. You would need to attach engines, and the station structure cannot handle the force.

If you read the commenters original comment, he mentioned "an" ISS, not "the" ISS. There's absolutely no reason that you couldn't just launch some Bigelow space station modules to a Lagrange point and set up a new space station there.

There is also currently no way of getting supplies and people there.

I suspect that's largely what the point of "Flexible Path" largely is -- to create an infrastructure for ferrying supplies and people between points in space. You can get things/people to a Lagrange point (or a NEO, or Phobos) if you have a dedicated "true" spacecraft which doesn't also have to lug around the mass necessary for launching people into orbit and performing reentry.

For a good idea of what the "Flexible Path" might involve, I suggest reading through this 2004 study led by Wes Huntress for the International Academy of Astronautics, "The Next Steps in Exploring Deep Space." It describes how an incremental architecture can be used to progressive expand exploration outwards from LEO, to Lagrange points, to NEOs, to the Lunar surface, to the Martian moons, and finally to Mars itself.

http://www.lpi.usra.edu/lunar/strategies/AdvisoryGroupReports/iaa_report.pdf [usra.edu]

Re:Baseline shuttle extension (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360049)

The #1 thing humanity should build is a mining/smelting/shipyard at a Lagrange Point. Before a moonbase, before anything else, really.

That's all nice and science fiction-y, but the cold, expensive reality is that we can barely get stuff to, and keep things at LEO. Langrange points are much harder and much more expensive to obtain. In the near future, this is going to be done incrementally, if at all. There is no room in anyone's budget for enormous programs that are orders of magnitude more expensive than Apollo.

If we can get a simple manned craft at a Lagrange point, it would be an impressive feat of engineering but I'm afraid it's importance would be lost on the vast majority of the people paying for it.

Re:Baseline shuttle extension (1)

Samy Merchi (1297447) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360187)

That's all nice and science fiction-y, but the cold, expensive reality is that we can barely get stuff to, and keep things at LEO.

We got the Apollo modules to the moon and back. L4/5 are easier to get to than the moon. Ergo, there is no technical barrier preventing us from ferrying Apollo module sized chunks of ISS-A to L4 and leaving them there. Accumulate them over time and build.

Re:Baseline shuttle extension (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29360081)

uh....the Lagrange points are outside of the Van Allen belts. It is a little late to retrofit the ISS with adequate shielding to support manned ops. Some will suggest adding a shielded node for solar events which would help during those high dose events but do nothing to mitigate the increased radiation cumulative effects for the majority of the mission that the crew is outside such a safe room.

Re:Baseline shuttle extension (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360345)

The #1 thing humanity should build is a mining/smelting/shipyard at a Lagrange Point. Before a moonbase, before anything else, really.

No, the number one thing the US should build is a propellant depot. (Actually, the number one thing the US should build is a Jupiter 130 or two, followed closely by a J-24x). Metals are not the problem. Orbital assembly is not the problem. Propellant is the problem. Every move in space is done by expending propellant (usually this means burning hydrogen and oxygen). Until we get depots up and running, we will have to cart all the mission propellant along with us for every mission. With some strategicly placed depots running, you can launch missions with smaller rockets, or launch more crew/cargo because you don't need to carry the return trip fuel.

Money to intellect (1)

igny (716218) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359779)

Is as NASA to what?

Keep in mind (5, Interesting)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359789)

NASA has spent almost $8 billion of a planned $40 billion to develop systems for a return to the Moon.

Yeah. And, when NASA spent all the money on the X-33 [wikipedia.org] they ended up with nothing to show for it.

Post-Apollo, NASA has a poor track record of developing new launch systems. I'm certain there are many bright and dedicated engineers at NASA, but as a collective organization, NASA just sucks at developing new launch systems.

I propose we take the remaining $32 billion that NASA hasn't spent yet, and deposit it in a bank somewhere. The first American company that lands human beings on the moon, keeps them there for one day, and returns them to Earth can collect $20 billion. The second company that does this can collect $10 billion. The third can have the last $2 billion.

No money will be paid for designs or plans, no matter how sincere. Only results will be paid.

It would be even better still if there were bounties for a useful space station (with fuel tanks and other infrastructure) to encourage solving the problem in a long-term way, rather than an Apollo-style pure race to the moon. These bounties should all be tax-free, of course.

I am 100% confident that bounties like this would result in America developing manned spaceflight capability. If we keep giving money to NASA bureaucrats to spread around to the military-industrial complex, I am less than 100% confident.

steveha

Re:Keep in mind (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29359999)

Okay I got an old cement mixer for the capsule I just have to figure out how much dynamite it'll take to blow me to the Moon. The return trip will be easy. I just wait until the Moon circles around then I'll fall off and the Earth's gravity will suck me back in. One of those great big truck inner tubes will work for the splash down. 20 billion here I come!!! Gotta figure out how many days the trip will take so I can calculate how much beer to take.

Re:Keep in mind (2, Interesting)

TorKlingberg (599697) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360075)

I am 100% confident that bounties like this would result in America developing manned spaceflight capability.

What gives you this confidence? Political ideology?

Re:Keep in mind (1)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360311)

How about experience with the greed of American business coupled with the fact that although getting to the moon and back is rocket science, it's just rocket science. All it takes is money, good ground control, decent computers, good shielding, and a decent vehicle. All of which an American corporation would be willing to underwrite for a shot at 10-20 billion USD. Especially given the goodwill that being the first private industry on the moon would produce - and the promise that they could use the vehicles delivered for space tourism and paid experimental science if they can make it reusable.

Re:Keep in mind (2, Insightful)

steveha (103154) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360337)

What gives you this confidence?

What an odd question.

First, I believe it is possible to go to the moon and return, because it was done about 40 years ago. Are you with me so far? If you aren't sure, consider that technology has actually improved just a little bit since then, and the laws of physics are about the same.

Second, I believe that 20 billion dollars is still kind of a lot of money. The Ansari X Prize [wikipedia.org] was only 10 million, and it accomplished its goal of getting privately-built launch vehicles into space.

Third, various companies are already working on launch systems. The existence of a lucrative bounty ought to help motivate them and/or help them get funding, and very well might cause new ones to form. In addition to the value of the prize itself, the publicity surrounding the project ought to increase the chances a company can get funding.

Political ideology?

If you want to call it that... I do believe that the private sector can still innovate and produce new things, and I do believe that competition is more productive than a giant entrenched bureaucracy.

There, I have answered your questions. My turn:

Do you believe that private organizations cannot build launch systems? Do you believe that the NASA bureaucracy can get things done faster than an assortment of competing organizations? Do you believe that the only good engineer all work for NASA or that NASA has some sort of secret knowledge that nobody else has?

Now, consider that all the money NASA spent on X-33 was wasted; the X-33 was canceled as a total failure. Do you believe that private organizations would do worse than that?

steveha

Re:Keep in mind (3, Interesting)

Keebler71 (520908) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360169)

Most of the coverage of this report thus far has been along the lines that NASA can not accomplish its goals within its available resources.

NASA gets slightly more than half of one percent (~00.6%) of the federal budget. Isn't it also worth debating if this is the right percentage of our tax dollars to spend on this endeavor and what other federal programs should be cut (or even taxes raised) to *properly* fund NASA?

Re:Keep in mind (1)

olsmeister (1488789) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360251)

Such a tactic probably would encourage recklessness and the cutting of corners.

Re:Keep in mind (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360381)

Such a tactic probably would encourage recklessness and the cutting of corners.

Because, you know, the last thing we want to have when exploring the unknown is risk.

(It's also worth noting that most of the companies developing new rockets and spacecraft have at least some astronauts running the company. I'm sure they have at least some idea about how to manage risk.)

Re:Keep in mind (1)

Andrew Cady (115471) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360297)

I propose we take the remaining $32 billion that NASA hasn't spent yet, and deposit it in a bank somewhere. The first American company that lands human beings on the moon, keeps them there for one day, and returns them to Earth can collect $20 billion. The second company that does this can collect $10 billion. The third can have the last $2 billion.

Why would any investor choose to fund a company that planned to attempt to collect this money? How do you convince the investor that even $32 billion, let alone $20 billion (which is the break-even point only for first place), is enough to accomplish the mission?

It just doesn't make sense. When you make an investment where it's possible to lose everything, you want a return on the money that's several times what you put in. Reward needs to be proportional to risk. When corporations make multi-billion dollar contracts, the agreement always includes payment through the contract for on-going activity; they never raise the money up-front, and take on all the risk through their own investors.

It's too much money for private corporations to raise for any project, anyway.

It's just so wrong...

Re:Keep in mind (3, Informative)

demachina (71715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360423)

Its a little sad how obsessed that report is with international partnering ISS, Shuttle, etc. It is way to much looking back and not enough looking forward. Not sure I'm surprised considering the makeup of the group that wrote it. They are a bunch of status quo people, still cowering in the shadow of the Shuttle accidents to the point they couldn't do anything bold if their lives depended on it. They needed a Richard Feynman, Robert Zubrin, Isaac Asimov, Kelly Johnson, Burt Rutan, Elon Musk, or Robert Bigelow. Instead they got a bunch of bureaucrats, trying to figure out what is wrong with a bureaucracy, like that is gonna work....

Its nice sounding to say how space exploration should be international and global and you do gain some resources and expertise partnering with the Russians, Europeans, Asians etc. But you also start with one organization drowning in its own bureaucracy, NASA, and multiply it by 10 more bureaucracies drowning in red tape all fighting for different agendas. By the time you build consensus you end up with a program to no where, and compromised by compromise. I could be wrong but I think the international cooperation part of ISS is a key reason it ended up another 10 years late and devoid of anything resembling a point. My impression is the Russians want nothing to do with NASA again after ISS.

Only way you are likely to get to Mars is to find a nation/organization with a laser focus, a visionary leader, the right people with the right skills and most importantly willingness to invest the resources in doing something bold and adventurous instead of wallowing in wars, weapons and socialism. I kind of doubt that would be the U.S. at this point. You figure China and India are probably the only two with the potential. India has too many problems, too much poverty and an obsession with fighting wars with Pakistan. China might be the one but its not like that country exactly has its ideals in order, question whether a corrupt bureaucracy can pull it off thanks to one party dictatorship.

No doubt someone will say we should spend it all at home until there is no hunger, poverty, disease etc.... The problem with that is its a bottomless pit. You can spend an infinite amount of money on it and make little progress, especially until we stop making so many babies.

This world seriously needs people breaking through frontiers and doing things that are hard or we will turn in to more of a miserable treadmill planet than we already are, full of people going nowhere.

I had a feeling this was coming... (4, Interesting)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359797)

When the shuttle program ends, it will be the end of the US manned space flight program. People have been asking why are when spending $X (what seems like a really big number) on manned space flight when we've been there, done that, and have Y number of problems still back on earth. This has been going on since Apollo 11. We stop sending people to space, people won't miss it. NASA may continue to fund some great robotic programs, but it doesn't capture the public's mind. And if they can't do that, they'll find their budget dwindle a little more each year. How many people, outside of slashdot, really care that the Mars Rovers are still going how many years later? And I think it barely survived the last budget cut. Even then you get into the politics of , "Yeah, it maybe doing something, but your eating up $Z dollars that could be funding my new flashy thingy!".

Back in the 1960's, NASA had a mission. Since they completed that mission, they've been floundering in the wind. They still done a lot of good work, but they've not really had a well defined goal to reach since 1969.

And as far as costs go, what is NASA's budget, $18B or there abouts. Didn't the Federal Government just give the state of New York $18B to improve the IT department of the states health services.

Re:I had a feeling this was coming... (2, Insightful)

KeensMustard (655606) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360179)

. People have been asking why are when spending $X (what seems like a really big number) on manned space flight when we've been there, done that, and have Y number of problems still back on earth.

Actually I think people are beginning to say why are we spending $X sending humans to do something a robot can do faster, cheaper and more reliably for one tenth the price.

NASA may continue to fund some great robotic programs, but it doesn't capture the public's mind.

Speak for yourself. I distinctly remember as a child poring over the photos and discoveries made by Voyager 1 and 2 and dreaming of what lay beyond that frontier, awaiting discovery by our non-human servants.

And in any case, is that really important? If we TRULY think exploring space is worthwhile for objective reasons, perhaps those objective reasons should be the driver and the inspiration, rather than the light and sound show of human space travel.

Re:I had a feeling this was coming... (1)

Bat Country (829565) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360331)

What if the point is to eventually get humans off of Earth and out into the broader universe? Can you send robots to colonize another planet?

Actually, you probably could, if you didn't mind having test tube babies from frozen embryos raised by machines as Earth's emissaries.

seed the planets (2, Insightful)

get_your_guns (1380583) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359809)

NASA's mistake in sending the last rovers to Mars was not to bring some gold, raw diamonds and black gold to seed the surface and report these as discoveries on the planetâ(TM)s surface. You would have De Beers, Mobile and a dozen other companies spending their profits from extorting us, their loyal customers, for a good cause this time. The American tax payer would not have to spend a dime to support the new space frontier

Re:seed the planets (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29359935)

This treaty [wikipedia.org] suggests that perhaps it's not possible currently (legally) to exploit the resources of other planets.

Re:seed the planets (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29359947)

I think you have the wrong idea about De Beers at least. De Beers isn't interested in new sources of diamonds. If diamonds were discovered on Mars, they'd probably do everything in their power to stop exploration of Mars. De Beers is all about using monopoly and manipulation to drive up the price of diamonds.

Re:seed the planets (4, Insightful)

Kartoffel (30238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360097)

Actual NASA guy here. Back when I was a starving grad student, I contracted a bit with a big oil company. News had just come out about the hydrocarbons on Titan, and my boss asked me if those crazy astronomers were serious. I looked into and confirmed that indeed, those planetary geologists (ahem) had evidence of BIGNUM barrels of cryogenic liquid petroleum gas just laying around on the surface of Titan.

I actually did some back of the envelope estimates for what it would cost to bring some of it back to Earth and burn it here in our atmosphere. It was too long term, and several orders of magnitude bigger than even the most ambitious terrestrial oil production project. Not to mention what burning all of Titan's carbon would do to Earth's atmosphere, if it did ever happen.

I'm glad they didn't go for it, 'cause hydrocarbon fuels aren't exactly the awesomest reason to go to Saturn's moons. Some day though, something will come up that DOES pass the cost/benefit test, and there's going to be new wave of pioneers leaving Earth to earn their fortunes.

In the mean time, I'm working to make Ares I as safe as possible with smart sensors and abort logic. If it gets canned, we'll have to do the same thing with the next rocket... and the one after that, too, and....

Sounds like any IT department ... (1)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359813)

[NASA] is perpetuating the perilous practice of pursuing goals that do not match allocated resources.

So what you're saying is that NASA is run by the same people who manage software projects.

Maybe we would be better off if we put them on a rocket and aimed it towards the sun.

Want to go back to the moon? Replace the Aries with an updated Saturn 5. Cheaper, proven tech.

Re:Sounds like any IT department ... (1)

pecosdave (536896) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360033)

The Aries V more or less IS an updated Saturn V. None of the leftover Apollo stuff if really usable anymore, time has taken it's toll. The Aries V J2x engines are so close the the Saturn V J2 engines they're considered the same series.

You're suggesting the current proposed path.

Re:Sounds like any IT department ... (1)

Kartoffel (30238) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360149)

It's like a software project where very 4 years the boss tells you to halt all your work, archive it, and start all over on a different project.

Augustine is telling the very people who allocate our resources that NASA is pursuing goals that cannot be met with said resources. Well, if the government gives NASA orders to do something and then fails to back it up with realistic funding, whose fault is that? We're talking a paltry 18 billion dollars. If you think that's a lot, look up how much the War on Terror costs, or how much has been doled out in economic bailout money.

NASA is outdated (1)

Totenglocke (1291680) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359835)

NASA is outdated and no longer serves a very viable purpose. Yes, 50 years ago it was necessary (well maybe not necessary, but at least helpful) to have the government organize space flight and research. However, the knowledge and technology is there (as has been shown by the X-Prize) for space exploration to go private. Private companies will achieve the results that we need while costing significantly less. Universities can also collaborate with companies to further research. Slashdot is always so full of people complaining about massive corporations getting government money, so why not have corporations that need satellites start paying the cost for getting those satellites up there instead of taxpayers?

It's time for NASA and it's massive cost to society to be put to an end.

Re:NASA is outdated (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29359915)

i really do not like the whole idea of companies setting ground in space before government setup the rules for how to interact up there and so on, getting a company to get there first the cheapest way is not always the best idea, or what happens whey then start fighting over claims up there,

Re:NASA is outdated (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360109)

or what happens whey then start fighting over claims up there,

Then some lawyers get really rich. What do you think happens when companies start fighting over claims right here on planet Earth? They settle it with fancy suits and checks, not firepower......

Re:NASA is outdated (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29359945)

nasa costs peanuts relative to other, less noble, budgetary expenditures

Re:NASA is outdated (1)

negRo_slim (636783) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360241)

so why not have corporations that need satellites start paying the cost for getting those satellites up there instead of taxpayers?

They already do.

Two birds, one stone (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29359837)

Just mass-produce sophisticated robotic probes!

It'll still be cheaper, and if we send 'em to space, we'll rid ourselves of any earthbound Robotic Overlords...right?

Escape the fishbowl (3, Insightful)

CorporateSuit (1319461) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359879)

This "Send Robots Instead" nonsense is just that -- Nonsense. Mankind's Manifest Destiny may have nothing but an unmarked grave in your hearts, but for millions, perhaps billions, the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

If there's anything robots don't do, it is "look to the stars." It is men who comprehend the insignificance of this world in relation to the vast emptiness of space, and the costs it will take to traverse that scape. It is men who want to watch the enormous Earth grow smaller and wax philosophical. It is men who walked upon the lonely face of the moon and felt enormous elation and accomplishment coupled with their nigh-incomprehensible solitude.

If NASA is having its intercelestial driver's license revoked, it should at least be given the directive to help direct traffic of the private industry. Apparently we need half-insane men and women blasting themselves and their employees and friends off to distant space rocks if humankind wants to travel across this galaxy. We do not need them crashing into satellites and ploughing into nearby cities due to lack of launch pads or proper orbital-traffic readouts.

Re:Escape the fishbowl (2, Insightful)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360369)

[quote]
This "Send Robots Instead" nonsense is just that -- Nonsense. Mankind's Manifest Destiny may have nothing but an unmarked grave in your hearts,
[/quote]

Your asserted conclusion does not make it so. We can, by leading with robots, learn much and learn it cheaply. We can then use it to eventually send humans AFTER we perfect doing the heavy lifting remotely.

Sending humans early on is an artifact of Cold War penis-waving coupled with the primitive technology of the times. Now, just as we are removing pilots from direct combat by using UAVs, we can remotely work in space. We need to improve robots much more than we need to rush prematurely to send tourists into space. Back in the days when people and wooden ships were expendable, using them to explore Earth made sense. Now, humans are a severe burden on tech development. Master space with robots, and we gain better robots we'll need anyway because space is hostile to humans.

Adventure? Fuck adventure. Pay a commercial outfit if you want to be entertained. This makes sense, because tourism is a powerful commercial incentive. Exploration is not, so leave that to NASA.

Re:Escape the fishbowl (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29360413)

that would be like getting the DOD to issue gun permits.

fucking stupid idea.

Re:Escape the fishbowl (1, Flamebait)

KeensMustard (655606) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360431)

This "Send Robots Instead" nonsense is just that -- Nonsense.

Thanks for clearing that up for us.

Mankind's Manifest Destiny may have nothing but an unmarked grave in your hearts, but for millions, perhaps billions, the reports of its death have been greatly exaggerated.

I hate to break it you but:

  1. "Mankind" has no Manifest Destiny
  2. On the whole, very few people subscribe to the theology of a Manifest Destiny any more - mostly because the purpose of the Manifest Destiny was for Europeans to justify invading someone elses land, taking their stuff and making money from the ill gotten gains.

So while you might hope for and preach a revival, the vast majority of our race NEVER subscribed to it and is quite justified in letting it lie in it's grave.

What about Un-Manned Spaceflight? (3, Insightful)

orcateers (883419) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359943)

Programs like the Hubble Telescope, Voyager, radio telescopes, mars rovers, etc, are all projects that teach us immensely more for the invested dollars than manned space flight. Maybe we should encourage more of this type of research? I think Americans have a special fetishism of the frontier that gives fleshy-contact primacy, but intellectual contact with astral elements is exciting too.

Re:What about Un-Manned Spaceflight? (1)

couchslug (175151) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360429)

"I think Americans have a special fetishism of the frontier that gives fleshy-contact primacy"

Precisely, but even in space there is no fleshy-contact because there must be barriers to protect humans from a totally hostile environment.

Space isn't Earth. No matter how far we go, we'll still have to live in a protective package and do most interaction with sensors. Best to spend a hundred years or so perfecting robots as opposed to chasing an adventure
for the (extremely) few at the expense of the many.

Don't forget that NASA is a subdivision of... (1)

Vandil X (636030) | more than 4 years ago | (#29359967)

...The U.S. Department of Defense.

It is not a civilian agency. It simply employs civilians along with its military talent.
So expect any money that is "better" spent (from the POV of $1000-plate politicians and ex-military people) on defense to go to those matters than to NASA.

Huh? (3, Informative)

Shag (3737) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360211)

NASA is an independent agency of the US government; the NASA administrator reports directly to the President (but doesn't serve on the cabinet). NASA and DoD do have overlapping interests, co-operate on a lot of stuff, and have a lot of inter-agency agreements, which you can find at http://www.sti.nasa.gov/codeid/ [nasa.gov] but if NASA were under DoD, there wouldn't be any need for inter-agency agreements.

You want to know "bleak"? Let me show you. (5, Insightful)

Jon Abbott (723) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360015)

According to WallStats [wallstats.com] , NASA's funding for 2010 is $18.7 billion. According to The New York Times [nytimes.com] , the amount of bailout funds committed by the U.S. Government to Bear Stearns and AIG (both of which are fraudulent companies) is $82 billion. That is 4.4 times the amount of funding that NASA is receiving next year. If the manned space program is canceled, let it be known that it was due to debacles such as this.

Re:You want to know "bleak"? Let me show you. (5, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360307)

If only NASA was too big to fail......

In order to get funding (5, Funny)

joeflies (529536) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360023)

rename the rocket to "planetary missile testing platform" and call the space program the strategic defense initiative. Or you can go one step further and rename NASA to Department of Homeworld Security.

Different summary (5, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360057)

Ok, not to be whiny, but I didn't like this particular summary, as it mentions the panel's conclusion that NASA's current path is unworkable, but doesn't make any mention of the alternative paths forwarded presented by the Committee (and discussed in the article). Here's an alternative summary, with some links to the actual report summary (which I suspect none of the commenters so far have actually read):

A summary [nasa.gov] of the Augustine Committee's [nasa.gov] upcoming report on the future of US spaceflight has been submitted to the White House and NASA, and made available to the public. The committee's analysis found that NASA's current plans for a human lunar return by 2020 are unworkable, with NASA's status quo not likely to place them on the moon 'until well into the 2030s, if ever'. Raising NASA's budget by $3B/year opens two primary options: 'Moon First' with a lunar return and possible base-building starting in the mid-2020s, or 'Flexible Path,' which would initially focus on building an in-space architecture for supporting progressive exploration, starting with Lagrange points and Near-Earth Objects (asteroids and comets) in the early 2020s, and exploring the moons of Mars or Earth in the mid-2020s. Options for a heavy-lift launcher were also outlined: NASA's current plans for an Ares V, a less costly 'directly Shuttle-derived' vehicle, or the least costly (but politically most difficult) 'new way of doing business' of purchasing launches on an upgraded EELV. Other key findings are that the ISS should be extended to 2020, that developing in-space refueling would benefit all of NASA's options, that NASA should make use of commercial crew transportation [thespacereview.com] , that NASA should revive its space technology development program (which had largely stagnated in past decades), and that while Mars should be the ultimate destination for human exploration, it is not the best first destination. The White House and NASA will review the report and announce NASA's forward path [nasaspaceflight.com] in early October.

Re:Different summary (1)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360279)

I have read the summary and think it seems well-thought out and positive and not at all aligned with the title of this original post.

Re:Different summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29360403)

>some links to the actual report summary (which I suspect none of the commenters so far have actually read)

"suspect"?

/.

Fine by me. (3, Insightful)

Ralph Spoilsport (673134) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360079)

Unmanned space exploration has proven to be so much more enlightening and worthwhile. What the HST, Voyager, Cassini, the Mars Rovers, and countless other probes and satellites, and soon, Kepler, have provided us has completely dwarfed the ISS and Apollo.

RS

Re:Fine by me. (4, Insightful)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360259)

First, that's not actually true, at least for Apollo, and, second, the Hubble is actually an argument for manned spaceflight. It would not have returned a fraction of the science return it did without the manned servicing missions (which, among other things, fixed the error in the mirror surface).

I predict that the Kepler will be serviced in-orbit as well. I also predict that the 40 years+ of Mars probes will become a historical footnote approximately one week after the first manned mission reaches Mars orbit.

Wouldn't it be cheaper... (4, Insightful)

NotQuiteReal (608241) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360105)

Wouldn't it be cheaper to just outsource manned spaceflight to China and India?

This is good for the galaxy... (2, Insightful)

sitarlo (792966) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360127)

Look at the mess people create on earth. It's probably best that we keep our distance from other worlds. It makes me kind of happy to know there are vast expanses of uninhabited space. Our resources should be focused on fixing problems here first, then we can look to the stars. At this point, going to Mars seems like a pointless endeavor when crack-heads line the streets of the Capitol of the United States after dark. I'd like to see a thriving space program as much as the next nerd, but exploring the universe can wait until we've mastered being human without killing each other, the air, the seas, and the land upon which we walk.

Re:This is good for the galaxy... (1)

sgage (109086) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360267)

My way of thinking of this is "what's the damn hurry?" The stars will wait. Let's simmer down and work through our primate craziness before we worry about inflicting ourselves upon the galaxy :-)

Re:This is good for the galaxy... (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29360419)

Are you willing to accept the extinction of humanity if it turns out that the problem is that we need to start over?

There's no reason to believe that it'd be better anywhere else, but there's also no reason to believe that we'll ever fix things here on earth. We've only been trying to get along with each other for near on 9 thousand years. Do you really want to risk the odds that humanity will survive another ten thousand years without having some sort of disaster that sets them back to stone age technology?

I'd rather see a huge chunk of humanity in all of its glorious imperfections get shot off frozen into space aimed at some distant star than see us sit around waiting for sociologists to figure out how to overcome human greed in order to make everybody equal. Chances are there aren't even enough resources on earth to make humanity equal and still have enough resources to start colonizing. An earth where everybody had enough to survive and nobody was a crackhead would probably look like Soylent Green.

Time for a reboot (1)

hyades1 (1149581) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360153)

NASA took a bold step down the road to oblivion when it bet the house on the shuttle as its primary launch vehicle. They've never recovered from that gigantic, world-class screw-up. They had reliable, proven heavy lifters, and the approach used by SpaceShipOne would surely be viable for orbiting smaller payloads if NASA had spent even half the development money that went into the shuttle on that kind of project. I don't know what the final answer is, but I see no evidence right now that NASA is anything more than a bunch of pencil-pushing bureaucrats with no vision and no real belief in their mission.

The international language of aviation is English. If the US government doesn't give NASA a good kick in the ass, the international language of space will be Mandarin.

There are clearly not enough.... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29360193)

...unemployed Canadian aerospace engineers to head things up at Nasa (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Chamberlin)

I hope they chose the flexible path (3, Interesting)

mbone (558574) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360213)

I hope that they chose the "flexible path," maybe with a little more than $ 3 billion per year in extra spending they view as the minimum price. The asteroids are where it's at in a bunch of ways - easy to get to the first ones, easy to deal with, and the likely source of economic activities in space (raw materials, etc.) for the rest of this century. Plus, if a NEO was discovered that looked like a threat to the Earth, the flexible path would provide the infrastructure to deal with it.

  One interesting thing you could do with the flexible path is build a lunar space elevator with existing technology. If that was done, you could then land on the Moon without building a new generation of lunar landers. That to me sounds like a cost effective and forward-thinking way to go to the Moon and develop a space flight infrastructure, not the lunar option outlined in the Augustine report summary.

No need for manned space exploration (2, Interesting)

simplemachine (799535) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360315)

Given the nature of our universe I foresee no leap of science allowing practical interstellar travel. So any human spaceflight out side of LEO seems pointless to me.

What if Some other Country... (1)

rueger (210566) | more than 4 years ago | (#29360327)

... had manned space fight and was working sending people to the Moon and Mars? Admittedly far-fetched, but if that happened then some people would just say "NASA? Who cares?"
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