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Lawmakers Voice Support For NASA Moon Program

CmdrTaco posted more than 5 years ago | from the where's-my-moon-rocks dept.

Moon 206

Matt_dk writes "Members of a key Congressional committee on Tuesday voiced support for NASA's Constellation program, designed to get astronauts back to the moon. The comments came a week after an expert panel said NASA's plans were not possible, given its current budget. The occasion was an appearance by Norman Augustine, head of a committee formed to consider the future of human space exploration. The Augustine committee sent a summary report to the White House last week saying NASA needs at least an extra $3 billion a year to implement the Constellation moon program. The report also included several alternatives to that program. At a feisty session on Tuesday, Congress was having none of those alternatives, starting just minutes into the two-hour hearing."

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Talk is cheap (5, Insightful)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465541)

"Voicing support" doesn't mean jack squat. Put your money where your mouth is or sit down. For WAY too many years now, Congress and various presidential administrations have "voiced supprt for NASA and made grand promises about building moon bases, going to Mars, etc. But they've turned around and quietly kept the same anemic budget that's been in place since Nixon axed their budget after Apollo. And, for all the grand promises, all NASA has actually delivered were a few probes, a low orbit space station, and a "reusable" spacecraft that can only go into low orbit and has to be rebuilt after each mission. Politicians have coasted on bullshit promises for decades now, and NASA has been all too willing to go along with it.

This committee report is the first time that someone has so publicly pointed out what should have been obvious for a long time now--that NASA isn't going ANYWHERE on the current budget. So either give them the budget they need or own up to the fact that the era of manned space exploration is over. Either way, stop wasting resources on money sinks like the ISS and a pointless shuttle program. They're little more than giant PR programs.

Re:Talk is cheap (4, Insightful)

KillerBob (217953) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465675)

Either way, stop wasting resources on money sinks like the ISS and a pointless shuttle program.

You do realize that:
1) The ISS is an international cooperation, an important starting point for manned deep space exploration as the cost will be prohibitive for any single nation? The PR it's worth isn't in the public eye, it's in the eyes of the nations that the US will have to ally itself with in space if it has any hope of getting a more permanent place in space.

2) The shuttle program is done, with the shuttles expected to be retired in 2010, and that they've been working on a replacement for the shuttle for 10 years, though the short-term solution seems to be to use Soyuz capsules for manned launches? Suggesting that they get rid of the shuttle because it's a load of bullshit promises and tired old technology is a bit redundant when the shuttle has less than a year left before it's permanently grounded.

Talk *is* cheap. And I honestly don't think that the US government has the stomach for space exploration any more. The people certainly don't... space is a hostile environment. If you feel that any loss of life is completely unacceptable, you'll never get out there, because the environment itself will kill you if you give it a chance. Take every precaution to avoid losing people, but understand and accept that every time you strap yourself to a rocket and blast into space, you're taking risks with your life. It's that 2nd part that the people at large don't seem to understand, and that's why every time there's an accident and somebody dies, the space program loses support.

Re:Talk is cheap (4, Informative)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465757)

Talk *is* cheap. And I honestly don't think that the US government has the stomach for space exploration any more. The people certainly don't... space is a hostile environment. If you feel that any loss of life is completely unacceptable, you'll never get out there, because the environment itself will kill you if you give it a chance.

What makes you think the American people feel that any loss of life is completely unacceptable? Most of the polls that I saw following the Columbia disaster showed an increase in support for the space program. I don't think the American people have a problem with the fact that space flight is an inherently dangerous activity. They do have a problem when incompetence leads to fatalities (who cares what the engineers say about the temperature and o-rings? let's launch!) but there's never been a majority of Americans that would scrap the whole program over them.

Re:Talk is cheap (0)

tcopeland (32225) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466107)

> what the engineers say about the temperature
> and o-rings? let's launch!

I just finished reading a neat book about the Challenger (not the Columbia) disaster and other material failures - Why Things Break [amazon.com] by Mark Eberhart. Some good technical discussion of Kevlar in there too. Nifty stuff!

Re:Talk is cheap (2, Insightful)

divisionbyzero (300681) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466951)

Talk *is* cheap. And I honestly don't think that the US government has the stomach for space exploration any more. The people certainly don't... space is a hostile environment. If you feel that any loss of life is completely unacceptable, you'll never get out there, because the environment itself will kill you if you give it a chance.

What makes you think the American people feel that any loss of life is completely unacceptable? Most of the polls that I saw following the Columbia disaster showed an increase in support for the space program. I don't think the American people have a problem with the fact that space flight is an inherently dangerous activity. They do have a problem when incompetence leads to fatalities (who cares what the engineers say about the temperature and o-rings? let's launch!) but there's never been a majority of Americans that would scrap the whole program over them.

I agree that most Americans don't care about the loss of life. What we do care about is "wasting" money. It sounds horrible but that's America. And, so, I think many, many people in America think human space exploration is a waste of money at this time. Of course, I'm sure the general contractors in these congressional districts feel differently and that's why you are hearing so much noise about it in Congress right now. As usual what happens in Congress has nothing to do with what the people that elected them want.

Re:Talk is cheap (5, Interesting)

TheGreenNuke (1612943) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465961)

The oceans are also a hostile environment. Yet we designed a submarine for about $6B and currently buy new ones (1 a year at the moment) for under $3B each. When was the last time the nuclear Navy has had an accident? That would be the USS Scorpion in 1968. Only twice in the history of the nuclear Navy has there been accidents resulting in the loss of life, both in the '60's. The Navy also has many more platforms, operate far more frequently, and are designed and built (nuclear construction too) for less than NASA wants to go to the moon. NASA needs to trim the fat and improve safety if that want to keep support levels high.

You also say that you take a risk every time you strap yourself to a rocket and blast into space. Well you also take a risk every time you strap your self to a car, get on a bike, bus, train, etc. But you have to trust that things have been designed properly and the operator is paying attention to what they're doing. If you want a life without risk, good luck finding it. The key is to make sure the proper steps are taken to mitigate those risks.

Re:Talk is cheap (5, Insightful)

Raffaello (230287) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466063)

But there's an important difference between space and the deep ocean. The energetic cost of getting a kilo of payload into space are several orders of magnitude larger than they are for getting the equivalent payload size into the deep ocean. Because of this we can afford to overbuild and over-engineer submersibles in a way that we cannot possibly hope to do for space vehicles where every gram costs us dearly. As a result, any space vehicle of a reasonable cost (read billions rather than trillions) will be inherently more risky, because it will be, by comparison with the submersible, built to the absolute minimum engineering tolerances for strength, durability, etc., Basically, anything that adds weight will be built to the absolute minimum tolerance on a space vehicle. A submersible will be significantly overbuilt for hull strength, resistance to pressure, etc. because the cost of moving this extra weight around under water is much, much lower, than the cost of sending the equivalent extra weight into orbit.

Re:Talk is cheap (1, Informative)

TheGreenNuke (1612943) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466273)

First off, i cost next to nothing to get payload to the bottom of the ocean, just grab a penny and drop it. The cost comes in bringing it back up

The weight of a sub is actually quite a critical parameter that is watched like a hawk. Don't forget these thing need to go up an down through great pressure swings and thermal variants for over 30 years (not to mention possible battle conditions). The design is not just "well lets bulk it up". If it adds weight, you have to add length to give enough volume to float that weight, and that costs a lot more money than you think. Lets not forget the newest ones carry all the fuel they will need for 30+ years. So yea, it may be a touch easier, but they're also carrying 30 years worth of baggage.

Re:Talk is cheap (1)

Stormy Dragon (800799) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466465)

Not weight per se; the critical parameter is buoyancy. As long as the sub is close to neutrally buoyant, going both up and down require little effort on the sub's part.

Re:Talk is cheap (2, Interesting)

TheGreenNuke (1612943) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466659)

And the buoyancy counteracts..... the weight. I did say that if you add weight you need to add length to give enough volume to float that weight, meaning you need to add buoyancy. Anyways the point was, subs could be made a lot smaller and cheaper if they didn't have to worry about coming up, because weight (read:buoyancy) will not matter, thus all those ballast and trim tanks (and associated pumps and piping) can go, the machinery can be packed in different to cut volume.

To relate it back to NASA, it takes a lot to get payload into space. Once its up there, it doesn't cost nearly as much to move around. Point in the right direction, do a short burn and you're on your way. Similar to come back to Earth. A sub however (almost) always needs to be powered if it wants to move anywhere.

Re:Talk is cheap (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29467011)

Space is orders of magnitude more dangerous and "hostile" than the oceans. The fact that NASA is able to send up probes and people for the same kinds of money as is spent on nuclear subs is an amazing feat of engineering.

Honestly, comparing space exploration vehicles to subs is kinda stupid...

Re:Talk is cheap (4, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466051)

Part of the problem is that when NASA shows its astronauts, it typically shows them doing pointless zero-G tricks. Tra-la-la, space is play. What NASA needs is a good PR team. Emphasize the danger. Emphasize the rigorous training. Show astronauts as the highly trained professionals that they are, rather than as a bunch of clowns on a high tech pleasure cruise.

Re:Talk is cheap (2, Insightful)

Maximum Prophet (716608) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466309)

Emphasize the danger.

Right on. The American public really isn't anti-danger, look at NASCAR.

It's good for society to have dangerous hobbies and send their bravest souls into danger. That way the rest of the population can live vicariously through them. It's either that, or start a war or two every now and then. Imagine the resource of the latest war were spent on space exploration. We'd have a space elevator by now.

Re:Talk is cheap (2, Interesting)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466399)

You equate "space exploration" with "manned space exploration". That's not very insightful. Human beings are a really, really, lousy information detection and collection device. Supporting them in space is very difficult and costs a fortune. Any sensible engineer would instantly reject a robot design for space exploration that resembled a human being. And people are unlikely to be able to explore Venus, Jupiter, etc for many decades -- maybe not ever. So here's a thought. Instead of exploring space with humans and the oceans with robots, how about we explore the oceans using people and space using robots? The oceans are poorly known, have more area than the moon and Mars combined, and represent at least as great a technical challenge as space exploration. The costs of exploring and exploiting the oceans -- maybe even colonizing them would probably be comparable to space exploration. And there are plenty of opportunities to create a bunch of martyrs if you think that killing folks engaged in unnecessary, but stirring, activities is somehow a requirement for progress. But the cost increments in ocean exploration are much smaller. A billion bucks worth of ocean research will actually buy you something other than a pile of paper and a few press releases. BTW, IMHO if anyone seriously thinks that an additional three billion a year is all our space program needs to make it well, they are fantasizing (again).

Re:Talk is cheap (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466437)

Drat -- forgot to click "Plain Old text". Let's try again.

You equate "space exploration" with "manned space exploration". That's not very insightful. Human beings are a really, really, lousy information detection and collection device. Supporting them in space is very difficult and costs a fortune. Any sensible engineer would instantly reject a robot design for space exploration that resembled a human being. And people are unlikely to be able to explore Venus, Jupiter, etc for many decades -- maybe not ever.

So here's a thought. Instead of exploring space with humans and the oceans with robots, how about we explore the oceans using people and space using robots? The oceans are poorly known, have more area than the moon and Mars combined, and represent at least as great a technical challenge as space exploration. The costs of exploring and exploiting the oceans -- maybe even colonizing them would probably be comparable to space exploration. And there are plenty of opportunities to create a bunch of martyrs if you think that killing folks engaged in unnecessary, but stirring, activities is somehow a requirement for progress. But the cost increments in ocean exploration are much smaller. A billion bucks worth of ocean research will actually buy you something other than a pile of paper and a few press releases.

BTW, IMHO if anyone seriously thinks that an additional three billion a year is all our space program needs to make it well, they are fantasizing (again).
--
You can't see ANYTHING from a car, You've got to get out of the goddamned contraption and walk...Edward Abbey

Re:Talk is cheap (2, Insightful)

KillerBob (217953) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466731)

And people are unlikely to be able to explore Venus, Jupiter, etc for many decades -- maybe not ever.

There's a very good reason to think in terms of manned deep space exploration: manned deep space colonization. Something about putting all your eggs in one basket. If something happens to this planet, or this solar system, we're screwed. Now, we're a long way away from being interstellar, but we should at least start trying to be interplanetary now.

Manned space exploration isn't about the human gathering information, it's about gathering information about what happens to humans out there.

Re:Talk is cheap (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29467033)

Either way, stop wasting resources on money sinks like the ISS and a pointless shuttle program.

You do realize that:
1) The ISS is an international cooperation, an important starting point for manned deep space exploration as the cost will be prohibitive for any single nation? The PR it's worth isn't in the public eye, it's in the eyes of the nations that the US will have to ally itself with in space if it has any hope of getting a more permanent place in space.

You do realize that the US has funded most of the ISS since Russia, China, and the other "world goverments" have failed on there part to fund any of it? That or why not just quote directly from slashdot. http://science.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=09/07/13/1330220

Re:Talk is cheap (2, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465691)

Either way, stop wasting resources on money sinks like the ISS and a pointless shuttle program. They're little more than giant PR programs.

That's extremely unfair. The shuttle hasn't lived up to it's original billing (cheap, reusable) or flown as many flights as was envisioned but to claim it's nothing more than a giant PR program is rather dismissive of everything that it has accomplished. No shuttle == no hubble repair mission == no hubble for the last 15 years.

Re:Talk is cheap (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466053)

That's extremely unfair. The shuttle hasn't lived up to it's original billing (cheap, reusable) or flown as many flights as was envisioned but to claim it's nothing more than a giant PR program is rather dismissive of everything that it has accomplished. No shuttle == no hubble repair mission == no hubble for the last 15 years.

Shuttle operations in the 1990's cost about $3 billion per year [nasa.gov] . The cost at launch of the HST was about $1.5 billion [about.com] . Shuttle HST repair missions were spectacular PR, but they were ridiculously cost-ineffective if you are using them to justify the existence of the entire program. For the price of shuttle operations, we could (very conservatively speaking) have launched 40 HSTs between 1990 and 2010.

Re:Talk is cheap (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466427)

I'm not using them to justify the "entire" program. I picked one accomplishment out of many to highlight. Do you honestly believe that the whole shuttle and ISS program is nothing more than a PR campaign?

Re:Talk is cheap (1)

PvtVoid (1252388) | more than 5 years ago | (#29467057)

I'm not using them to justify the "entire" program. I picked one accomplishment out of many to highlight.

With the exception of studying the effect of microgravity on humans themselves, I can't think of a single science program using the Shuttle that couldn't have been done better, cheaper, and more reliably with unmanned rockets. That includes HST, which was only put in low-earth orbit to give the Shuttle something to do. (See, for example, this paper [harvard.edu] ). The Air Force realized this long ago with respect to military payloads, and quit using the Shuttle early on, and NASA has abandoned the idea of a serviceable telescope in low-earth orbit when launching the Webb, which will be at L2 [spacefellowship.com] .

The shuttle as originally envisaged in the 70's would have been fully reusable and capable of reaching geostationary orbit. That would have been worth the time and effort. What we have was a waste of money, doing a job that is done better (and far cheaper) by Soyuz. The ISS is even worse. The effects of microgravity on people were studied to death by the Russians on MIR. The ISS hasn't really done much of any new science at all, which is tragic when you consider all of the actual cutting-edge space science that could have been done with the ISS budget.

Do you honestly believe that the whole shuttle and ISS program is nothing more than a PR campaign?

Pretty much. The science return for the expense has been incredibly low. We have been "exploring" low-earth orbit for forty years now. There's not much more to find.

Re:Talk is cheap (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 5 years ago | (#29467083)

The shuttle isn't really reusable. Large parts of it are replaced every launch and the complex parts are stripped down and rebuilt. The shuttle has quite a low flight ceiling and was designed to recover satellites from orbit and bring them back down; something that no shuttle mission has ever actually done. A reusable space plane would have been useful, but the shuttle definitely does not fall into that category. Lots of parts on the shuttle are now ridiculously heavy (driving up the per-launch costs) in comparison with their modern equivalents because the shuttle was designed to be reused, and a proper refit would be too expensive, so these heavy parts get a massive overhaul every launch, but keep being lifted back into space and brought down again.

Re:Talk is cheap (1)

jellomizer (103300) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465801)

Stopping such programs will make them that much harder to start again. If you say Lets stop the ISS and shuttle program then when it come back to a point where Man space travel looks more promising then they will go well look at earlier 21st century we canceled Man Space Flight because it was a wast of resources why should we start it again. Vs keeping it on life support right now so when if/when interest kicks back up it will be an easier sell to just raise the budget.

Re:Talk is cheap (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466009)

Low orbit missions are hardly cutting edge. And there is very little the space shuttle or ISS can teach us about going to the moon or Mars (that we haven't already learned many years ago anyway). If anything, NASA needs desperately to break out of a low orbit mentality and get back into the Apollo engineering mindset (which has long since been forgotten). ISS and the shuttle are just distractions--largely pointless distractions.

Re:Talk is cheap (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466149)

It looks like there's more international interest in the ISS these days. If it continues then just having that continued presence there will allow us to learn lessons, especially if the fantasies of NASA buying modules from Bigelow ever come true. Cheap at twice the price — we need to get off this rock!

Re:Talk is cheap (1)

clang_jangle (975789) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465947)

"Voicing support" doesn't mean jack squat. Put your money where your mouth is or sit down.

Yep, and the backlash [csmonitor.com] has already started.

Re:Talk is cheap (1)

hardburn (141468) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466495)

*golfclap*

These politicians insist on making that classic bungle of project management, the sunk cost fallacy:

"NASA has been working for more than four years on the Constellation program, a development program in support of which Congress has invested billions of dollars over that same period," said Science Committee chairman Bart Gordon. "As a result I think that good public policy would tell us that there needs to be a compelling reason to scrap what we've invested our time and money in over the past several years."

If they want to continue Constellation, that's fine, but it needs to:

  • Ignore sunk costs
  • Keep the ISS running past 2015
  • Scrap Ares I and focus on Ares V

The ISS already has a lot of sunk costs behind it, too. The argument here should be what it can achieve if the project is extended out. If we knew how the project would unfold back in 1995, I don't think the ISS would have continued past a conceptual phase, but that's looking at everything in hindsight. If it can prove that it can show practical results with a modest additional expenditure of money, and I think it can, it's worth continuing.

Ares I should just be dropped. Its payload is comparable to the SpaceX Falcon 9 Heavy, and that project is already further along and promises to be much cheaper per kg. Or just man rate a Delta IV, which will still likely be cheaper than continuing Ares I. Other than "Not Invented Here", there's no reason NASA should continue Ares I.

Ares V still makes sense, because nothing has anywhere near its payload capacity.

Re:Talk is cheap (4, Insightful)

Graymalkin (13732) | more than 5 years ago | (#29467081)

I know its in vogue to bash the Shuttle and ISS but you really need to do some research. They both have their problems but they are far from being pointless. At the most basic level the ISS has taught us how to design and build a large structure that needs to be assembled in space. Future long term missions require this domain knowledge. The most Apollo era technology achieved was very basic two-craft docking (Apollo CM-LM, Apollo-Soyuz, Apollo CM-Skylab). The ISS is also what has enabled the private manned launch industry. SpaceX would have nowhere to go and nothing to do if it weren't for the ISS. The ISS can house and bus experiments that aren't tied to a single manned mission meaning extremely long term experiments can be run without needing to design and build a new long duration spacecraft. The Space Shuttle despite its flaws can lift twenty tons of cargo the size of a school bus along with seven astronauts in a single launch. No other current or past spacecraft can boast that capability. This capability allowed the Shuttle to launch satellites, perform five Hubble servicing missions, perform dozens of SpaceLab missions, and build the ISS.

You talk about LEO like getting there is a bad thing. LEO is a great place to do space science without getting your crew killed. LEO has the benefit of Earth's magnetic field which protects astronauts from heavy doses of solar radiation. The presence of the magnetic field obviates some amount of shielding a manned mission might otherwise need which means more spacecraft mass can be dedicated to experimentation. It's also much cheaper (relatively speaking) to get a lot of mass into LEO than it is into other orbits. Getting something the size of the Space Shuttle into a MEO or GEO would be extremely difficult to do with a single launch. The LEO environment is then a great place to perform long duration manned missions to figure out how the hell to keep a crew alive and sane on a mission to Mars or a NEO. LEO is also a good place to learn and practice techniques for building things reliably in space. We're learning how to get a crew to Mars or a NEO by orbiting "pointlessly" in LEO, the skills learned in orbit will be useful on NEO and Mars missions. The altitude of the orbit isn't quite as important as the skills learned while you were there.

"support" is an interesting term (2, Interesting)

FTWinston (1332785) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465559)

Augustine explains the

mismatch between the task to be performed and the funds that are available to support those tasks

And congress reject this. They call this "voicing support?" Sounds like a death sentence to the higher-ups at NASA to me...

Re:"support" is an interesting term (1)

mrdoogee (1179081) | more than 5 years ago | (#29467049)

Its just more of the same. Congress won't kill the program, but they'll just whittle the budget down every time its possible until its just a token effort, if it hasn't become that already.

If that's the way it has to be, I'd rather see NASA dismantled. Take the $3 bil budget, save half of it and make the other half into grants for private space exploration companies. 3 billion may be chicken scratch for a big gov't agency like NASA, but 1.5 billion is a buttload for Scaled Composites, or even Virgin. NASA can even stick around as a regulatory body (think the FAA... but in space).

 

Bush mandated a moon shot (4, Informative)

Nadaka (224565) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465609)

and utterly failed to provide funding for it. Its no wonder that NASA does not have enough money to complete the project. If this results in a funding increase for NASA, it will be a start. Even if it is only a tiny baby step.

Re:Bush mandated a moon shot (2)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465763)

To be fair, there is that little matter of paying for the invasion and occupation of a foreign country for political purposes.

After all, if you're going to spend a trillion dollars sending troops overseas to nation build, that does tend to put a crimp in the budgets of other projects.

Re:Bush mandated a moon shot (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466669)

To be fair, there is that little matter of paying for the invasion and occupation of a foreign country for political purposes.

After all, if you're going to spend a trillion dollars sending troops overseas to nation build, that does tend to put a crimp in the budgets of other projects.

To be even fairer, the President doesn't do the budget, Congress does.

And if you're spending a trillion dollars sending troops overseas to nation build, then an extra 0.3% is peanuts.

Re:Bush mandated a moon shot (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29466293)

In all fairness, while the presidency is a great platform for setting goals, it's really hard to control budgeting -- that's left to congress, and the president only gets an all-or-nothing veto. If the president can get his own party's representatives on board, he should get more-or-less what he wants, but space funding is an easy target for both parties, and the republicans (even while they had solid control) were splitting on more important issues. It simply was a low priority, so the party leadership spent their limited control elsewhere.

If either party as a whole were to consider space exploration an important issue, it would get funding when they had power, but a president without party backing is really quite limited.

"the future of human space exploration" (2, Interesting)

moon3 (1530265) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465653)

Do we believe that future of space exploration is in the hands of some government agency ? I look more at the X-Prize winners and similar developments for whatever space future we might be getting into.

Re:"the future of human space exploration" (2, Insightful)

El Jynx (548908) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465717)

Not really. Such projects should be gov-supported, only opener, although I guess with international teams all over the place now, that counts as progress in international terms. But going back to the moon just for the moon's sake, come on, we've got other fish to fry. One of the things that pisses me off is that there's no central organisation specifically aimed at hunting and tracking down incoming asteroids. There's still too many "oops, didn't see that one coming!" cases, and sooner or later the near-miss (who thought up that word - that should be near-hit!) will not miss. Also we need to start sending probes to neighboring systems asap, nevermind that it'll take decades if not longer. Earth is a Single Point of Failure for the human race.

Re:"the future of human space exploration" (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466233)

Earth is a Single Point of Failure for the human race.

Even a dinosaur killer plus wouldn't take out the human race - more people would survive in deep bunkers here on Earth and with better chances of long-time survival than on an off-planet colony, same with a gamma ray burst. Which by the way would probably be wide enough to take out Mars too. And while humanity can be pretty destructive, I don't think we'd manage to kill off everyone. The only SPOF-threat is really a rock big enough to destroy earth, which is of course possible we could just as easily have spent another million years or so being primates. There's nothing to indicate we're threatened here, so why use that argument? The chance to explore, find new worlds, bring humanity new places, sure. But if you try to pose it as a risk, I really can't take it seriously.

All wrong - space travels should be private (0)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465661)

Go read "The Man Who Sold the Moon," a story about an entrepreneur who not only reached the moon, but also set-up permanent colonies. As long as the government runs the show, it will just be like the last moon mission - lots of expensive tourist visits but no long-term settlement.

Re:All wrong - space travels should be private (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29465745)

The book is by Robert Heinlein, by the way.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Sold_The_Moon [wikipedia.org]

If we could only get the gov't out of the way... (1)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465939)

... we'd be on our way to the libertarian paradise in space. Riiight. Dude, don't you understand how this works? The reason we're not doing "long-term settlement" on the moon is that there's absolutely, positively no way to make money at it. If there were, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, and all the other usual suspects would just buy themselves some senators, get the government out of their way, and go do it. But the fact is that getting to the moon at all is astronomically (pun intended) expensive. Getting to the moon with all the equipment, people, and supplies you'd need to build a space colony is un-freakin' believably astronomically expensive. Not to mention all the enormously difficult, unsolved technological problems involved in long-term life in space.

And once you got there, what are you going to do to recoup your investment? There is absolutely nothing on the Moon that we can't get more cheaply and easily on earth. Much is made of the possibility of obtaining He3, but 1) we have no earthly use for it, and 2) there's really not that much of it on the Moon either. The Moon is almost entirely made of silicate minerals... so is the earth.

People who keep making this argument need to face the fact that there's a reason that private companies aren't going to the moon (or into space in general). It's not because the government is stopping them - if there was money to be made, big companies would route around the government. The problem is that there's no money in it.

Re:If we could only get the gov't out of the way.. (3, Insightful)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465997)

People who keep making this argument need to face the fact that there's a reason that private companies aren't going to the moon (or into space in general). It's not because the government is stopping them - if there was money to be made, big companies would route around the government. The problem is that there's no money in it.

There was no money in the internet either until the 1990s. I guess building it before then was a waste of time and money.

Re:If we could only get the gov't out of the way.. (0)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466089)

There was no money in the internet either until the 1990s.

You're an idiot if you believe that. The Internet, being a world-wide communication medium, was clearly useful, at minimum for research, business, and military purposes. Sure, it wasn't clear that there would be consumer-level interest, but there didn't need to be for it to be worth developing and deploying (after all, DARPA developed it for a reason).

Contrast this with a moon colony, which, to any sane human being, is absolutely fucking pointless as far as money-making endeavours go, and it should be clear even to a simpleton how the two are very different.

Re:If we could only get the gov't out of the way.. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466257)

It should also be clear even to a jackass such as yourself that you can't predict whether or not space exploration will be economically profitable in the mid to long term.

Re:If we could only get the gov't out of the way.. (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466375)

Seriously, do you hear yourself? "Well, *maybe* space will be profitable some day! We just don't know yet!" Well that's a great pitch proposal when you're trying to get funding for your new moon base! Brilliant!

Again, constrast this with the Internet: a) The cost to deploy were *much* lower, b) it could be done incrementally, and c) it was clear right from the outset why it was useful. *None* of these things is true of a moon landing. You're either in it for billions, or you're not in it at all. And at the end, as you yourself point out, there's no obvious way to actually make money once you've gotten there. And yet you think business will just jump in with both feet? Please.

Re:If we could only get the gov't out of the way.. (2, Interesting)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466425)

No, I don't think business will jump in with both feet. I never said anything of the sort. All I think is that gutting the manned space program is incredibly short-sighted. There will come a day when spaceflight is profitable. That could be tomorrow if we discover some rare and profitable material (not likely), it could be within our lifetimes (somewhat more likely) or it could come afterwards. Either way, I think it's in our long term interest to do everything we can to develop space flight technologies and to study the effect that space flight has on the human body.

The dinosaurs died out because they didn't have a space program. Personally I'd prefer that homo sapien not suffer the same fate.

Re:If we could only get the gov't out of the way.. (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466455)

Either way, I think it's in our long term interest to do everything we can to develop space flight technologies and to study the effect that space flight has on the human body.

Wait... so you *do* think government should be involved in space flight? Because your original post in this thread suggested precisely the opposite.

Re:If we could only get the gov't out of the way.. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466559)

Which post would that be?

Re:If we could only get the gov't out of the way.. (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466707)

The OP said this:

People who keep making this argument need to face the fact that there's a reason that private companies aren't going to the moon (or into space in general). It's not because the government is stopping them - if there was money to be made, big companies would route around the government. The problem is that there's no money in it.

The point, here, was to argue against the idea that government should get out of the space industry and let business take over. You followed up with:

There was no money in the internet either until the 1990s. I guess building it before then was a waste of time and money.

This comment seems to clearly defend the idea that business would get into space travel if the government would just let them. Now, if that wasn't your intent, my apologies, but that's certainly how I (and others, it seems) read your response.

If, however, your position is that the government should fund and develop space travel until such time as profitability can be established, then I absolutely agree with you. Much like any number of fundamental technologies, government can take the long view to get the industry established, at which point business can get involved (and possibly take over).

Re:If we could only get the gov't out of the way.. (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466795)

If, however, your position is that the government should fund and develop space travel until such time as profitability can be established, then I absolutely agree with you.

That was my point. The internet wasn't really profitable until the 90s (though there were a few exceptions, as others pointed out). That doesn't mean that building it was a waste of time or money though.

Re:If we could only get the gov't out of the way.. (4, Insightful)

680x0 (467210) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466117)

There was no money in the internet either until the 1990s. I guess building it before then was a waste of time and money.

And who was developing the Internet until the 1990's? The government. Specifically, DARPA and NSF. And a bunch of universities, probably funded by government grants.

Re:If we could only get the gov't out of the way.. (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466365)

>>>There was no money in the internet either until the 1990s. I guess building it before then was a waste of time and money.

The people who sold me my first modem in 1987, which allowed me to get online and access the primitive internet, would have disagreed with that. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:CommodoreVICModem.jpg [wikipedia.org] - So too would America Online which was born in the mid-80s. No money? There was lots of money to be collected from the internet prior to the 1990s.

Re:If we could only get the gov't out of the way.. (2, Informative)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466281)

>>>If there were, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, and all the other usual suspects...

They can't. These companies are BANNED from creating interplanetary ventures. The law allows them to send-up satellites, but it's illegal for them to do any other space-based entrepreneurship. The government has assigned that market to NASA as a monopoly, just like the old East India Trading Company had been granted a monopoly by the crown.

What we need to do is repeal that law, open Moon and Mars development to private business, and we'll see colonies on both those bodies before we die. As long as we leave it in the hands of government, which is more-interested in cutting budgets than exploring (see NASA 1972 when Apllo was killed), the colonization will never happen. Government has already demonstrated it can not be entrusted to do the job, ad this new moon program is certain to end the same way the last one did. As the saying goes, "Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me."
.

>>>libertarian paradise in space

Oh and by the way I'm not Libertarian. I'm a Jeffersonian-democrat. He believed in pushing the government out of the way, and letting the People operate freely in their private ventures. So do I. We need to keep NASA, but we also need to revoke their monopoly and allow other businesses like Lockheed, Boeing, even Microsoft, to extend their reach into interplanetary travel. That's the only way to create a thriving space-based community.

Re:If we could only get the gov't out of the way.. (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466435)

What we need to do is repeal that law, open Moon and Mars development to private business, and we'll see colonies on both those bodies before we die.

Uhuh.

Why? What reason could any business *possibly* have for spending billions to go to the Moon or Mars? Where's the profit motive?

Re:All wrong - space travels should be private (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465955)

Yes... and how does the main character do it? By lying and pretending there's something on the moon worth going there for (in this case, diamonds).

The lesson: The only way you'll convince people or businesses that going to the moon is even remotely worth the trouble is by lying through your teeth.

Re:All wrong - space travels should be private (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466417)

>>>by lying through your teeth.

I thought we were discussing a story called "Man Who Sold the Moon," not our United States Congress. Yes I know they lie through their teeth, promising to fund moon exploration, but please stay on topic. I don't trust the congress. They're just going to do the same thing they did in 1972 - cut the funds and kill the program. Fool me once shame on you; fool me twice shame on me. It's time to try something new

Re:All wrong - space travels should be private (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466487)

Good try, shifting the discussion onto a topic where you feel you might have a stronger footing, but it's a pretty weak tactic when you can't win an argument.

Once again: In Heinlein's book, the only way the main character could convince business to fund a space venture was to *lie to them*, telling them there were diamonds on the moon when he new full well that there wasn't.

Once again, the lesson is simple: going to the moon is completely, utterly pointless as far as businesses are concerned, as there's nothing there worth getting. Put simply, there is no profit motive, and without that, no sane business will bother getting into the space (despite what your little wet dreams about commercialized space travel might tell you).

Just get on with it (2, Interesting)

MrKaos (858439) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465665)

Well I'm glad they said it. We can frig around with this platform or that platform based on the merits of xyz and sure direct is probably a better launcher and solid fuel launchers are probably bad but haven't we learned the lessons from scraping the Saturn V launchers yet?

Pick a platform, with all it warts, short of fundamental design flaws, and keep developing it.

I think the 747 was being developed around the same time as the Saturn V launchers, look how far it has come. Imagine if Boeing decided to chuck all that development work away and start again - they'd be bankrupt.

Time to get on with it.

Re:Just get on with it (1)

commodore64_love (1445365) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466481)

>>>Boeing [would] be bankrupt.

No they wouldn't. If Boeing was like government they'd have a monopoly on your wallet, and be able to sustain themselves by sucking dollars out of it, even when they are producing an old obsolete 1960s product. Kinda like how Amtrak operates now. Or how the Government-Tribant monopoly operated in East Germany (smelly belchy oil-burning cars).

Where there is no competition, and you have direct access to funds, there is no need to innovate.

Re:Just get on with it (1)

CraftyJack (1031736) | more than 5 years ago | (#29467115)

Pick a platform, with all it warts, short of fundamental design flaws, and keep developing it.

I especially like the way VADM Joe Dyer, Chairman of NASA's Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) put it:

We note that the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee summary report compares current plans for the Constellation program with a number of conceptual alternatives. Here, we offer a word of caution -- PowerPoint presentations addressing future programs will always out shine current programs of record. Why is that the case? It is because current programs have garnered the professional peer and public review during the accomplishment of real work. Technical challenges will have been discovered, cost stress will have been revealed, and the reality of conducting high risk business in an unforgiving environment will have been highlighted and publicized. Future concepts do not yet have the benefit of this reality testing. This experience led to one of the ASAP's prime recommendations presented to the Review of U.S. Human Space Flight Plans Committee. Specifically, the ASAP believes that if Constellation is not the optimum answer, then any other new design must be substantially superior to justify starting over.

Military budget is... (4, Informative)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465669)

$636B. [wikipedia.org] More than the sum of ALL OTHER COUNTRIES combined.

This is like walking around with $600 in your pocket and giving a bum on the street $3.

Re:Military budget is... (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465749)

The USA also spends more on space if you combine NASA, DoD, NRO expenditures than the rest of the world combined.

That's sort of irrelevant. (2, Insightful)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465983)

Whether or not we're spending more than anyone else, we're not spending anywhere close to what it would cost actually do the missions we've set out to do. On the other hand, we are wasting an enormous amount of money in buying way more defense capability than we could possibly ever need. The GP is arguing (I think) that we ought to cut the defense budget and divert some of the money into space exploration.

and it has no real effect on NASA's budget (1)

Shivetya (243324) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465777)

if anything it furthers space technology more than it hinders it.

We also spend more on new buildings/bridges/parks named after living government officials than on NASA.

Does NASA get votes?

Answer that and you have found the real reason.

Re:Military budget is... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465799)

More than the sum of ALL OTHER COUNTRIES combined.

What's your point? We could spend the money in other ways? Yeah, maybe. Unless the world destabilized and we had to step in at a later date and spend even more money to pick up the pieces.

This is like walking around with $600 in your pocket and giving a bum on the street $3.

So NASA is a homeless bum in your world view? Maybe we should tell them to get a job ;)

Re:Military budget is... (2, Insightful)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466025)

What's your point? We could spend the money in other ways? Yeah, maybe. Unless the world destabilized and we had to step in at a later date and spend even more money to pick up the pieces.

Yes. Because a) the US stepping in to other countries in order to stabilize things has worked so very well so far, and b) no other nations could possibly work together with the US to address international issues in a multilateral way.

And this is ignoring the fact that the US military blows obscene amounts of money on pointless technology development (cutting edge interceptors when there has been a dogfight in decades, missile defense shields that don't actually work, tactical nuclear technology, fancy airborn laser systems, microwave-based crowd dispersal gizmos, etc, etc). All while actual, useful scientific and technological endeavours go underfunded. Brilliant!

Re:Military budget is... (4, Informative)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466083)

What's your point? We could spend the money in other ways?

The Apollo program was nothing more than a pissing match. We tossed 13 years we dumped $145B (in 2008 $). That's $11B a year, or $8B more than we're spending now.

Imagine if we spent $600B PER YEAR on finding alternative energy. Imagine if we spent $600B in one year on NASA. We'd be at Mars within 5 years. We slapsticked the Moon mission together in, what now looks like record time.

Universal health care would cost an estimate $70B. $70. For ~1/10th of what we spend blowing people up we could give every man woman and child in America full health care.

Re:Military budget is... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466357)

Imagine if we spent $600B PER YEAR on finding alternative energy. Imagine if we spent $600B in one year on NASA. We'd be at Mars within 5 years. We slapsticked the Moon mission together in, what now looks like record time.

You must be a Democrat if you think that merely throwing large amounts of money at a problem is all that is required to solve it. You could write NASA a blank check tomorrow and it would still take more than 5 years to get to Mars. You think you can design, build and test a spacecraft overnight? You think you can train the guys who will fly it overnight?

Universal health care would cost an estimate $70B. $70. For ~1/10th of what we spend blowing people up we could give every man woman and child in America full health care.

The problem with our health care system isn't a lack of money. The problem with our health care system is that large bureaucracies (Governmental and corporate) spend most of the money and remove the consumer from the process of determining value. You can throw 70B or even 600B more at the problem and it's only going to get worse.

I would support the Democrats in spite of their "great society" ambitions if they were serious about fixing the real underlying problems in our system. Unfortunately all they want to do is add more people into it. That may allow them to claim political victory but all it's doing is propping up a system that gobbles up an ever increasing slice of our treasure.

If you want a serious discussion about health care check out my journal and read the article that I linked. It might enlighten you.

Re:Military budget is... (3, Interesting)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466581)

I'm not debating that health care in this country is a cluster fuck. I'm not debating that it's over priced and that it's being fucked up by bureaucracies.

I'm just saying. Even with all those problems we could easily toss a fraction of spending we spend on the military and do it.

And they went from 0 to the moon in 8 years. 8 years. Before the internet. Before CAD/CAM. Before software simulation. It used to take my company almost a decade to design a new product. You'd have to draft everything by hand. I guess we used to employ a courier service to go between our buildings and do nothing but carry drawings. Even then it'd take a day or two sometimes for another division to get them and change them and send them back.

I don't think 5 years is unreasonable if we threw our unconditional support behind it.

Re:Military budget is... (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466677)

I don't think 5 years is unreasonable if we threw our unconditional support behind it.

I disagree, though I'd love to be proven wrong. How long did it take from conception to completion to design, build and test the A380? Presumably with the full benefit of the internet, CAD/CAM and everything else that you mentioned. Do you think that a space craft capable of going to Mars and returning would be less complicated than the A380?

Ten years is probably more reasonable though I think we'd both agree that neither timeline is realistic with the current amount of funding that NASA receives.

Re:Military budget is... (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466733)

Well that was my point. The "current amount of funding" isn't enough. With 600B, I think it could be done.

Second, my company takes 10 years to design new engines. It's an engine, how hard could that be? Problem is both us and Airbus are public companies. We have to deal with 'profit' and we can't throw everyone behind one project, etc.

Re:Military budget is... [OT] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29465805)

Remind me why the fuck is it my responsibility to support the bum exactly?

I've given money to panhandlers plenty of times, but you can shove that bleeding heart shit right up your ass.

Re:Military budget is... [OT] (1)

Shakrai (717556) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465903)

I've given money to panhandlers plenty of times

I don't carry cash. I bet the advent of widespread debit/credit card use has really put a crimp in the panhandler lifestyle. I keep waiting to run into one with a credit card machine.

In any event, it's much more fun to tell them to get a job when they beg for money. This will generate a reaction ranging from "fuck you" to just walking away. If you are lucky they will try to take a swing at you and you can test out your new taser ;)

Re:Military budget is... [OT] (1)

Abcd1234 (188840) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466041)

Actually, forget the bleeding heart, giving money to panhandlers is simply the wrong thing to do. Around here, the city has put up numerous signs discouraging the behaviour, as it reinforces the behaviour, rather than encouraging them to seek out alternatives that don't involve begging on the street.

But we're getting a little off-topic, here. The real point is that 3B for NASA is absolutely a drop in the bucket compare to US military expenditures. If the US really is focused on going back to the moon, it's baffling that congress would balk at such a tiny amount of money (relatively speaking).

Re:Military budget is... (3, Insightful)

KillerBob (217953) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465851)

This is like walking around with $600 in your pocket and giving a bum on the street $3.

Not quite. You need to give that bum on the street some more credentials... he's living from meal to meal, and sometimes goes 2 or 3 days between chances to eat. Oh, and he's a former Nobel laureate, and invented things like Velcro and Kevlar, without which the military's equipment wouldn't be anywhere near as effective as it is....

Re:Military budget is... (1)

ChristTrekker (91442) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466049)

I'd be happy if the U.S. pulled it's military out of other countries, and let them supply their own military defense. There's no reason one country should try to protect half the world. If the U.S. were to do that, you can bet military spending would drop to be more in line with other nations.

Re:Military budget is... (1)

Brett Buck (811747) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466239)

Money wasted on only one step of the "bailout" - $787 billion.

        Brett

Re:Military budget is... (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466325)

What is funny is that the rest of the world spend their army money on developing things to counter American devices !

no, it's like having a $600 credit card balance (1)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466445)

This is like walking around with $600 in your pocket and giving a bum on the street $3.

No, it's like having a $600 credit card balance at the end of the month after your paycheck has come in and you've paid all your bills, and saying "well, I'm $600 in debt from fighting my neighbor and giving gifts to all my roommates. What's another $3 on this scifi movie?"

It's another $3 you don't have, that's what.

Re:Military budget is... (0, Flamebait)

Zephiris (788562) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466743)

(All amounts in USD.)
World Expenditure for 2008: $1,470,000,000,000.
US Expenditure for 2010: $636,292,979,000.
Difference: $833,707,021,000. (Really, that's FIRST GRADE math.)
Iraq Expenditure for 2009: $32,400,000,000.
France Expenditure for 2008: $70,613,746,423.
People's Republic of China Expenditure for 2009: $70,308,600,000.
Russian Federation Expenditure for 2008: $39,600,000,000.

US Expenditure as percentage of GDP as of 2005: 4.06%.
Iraq Expenditure as percentage of GDP as of 2006: 8.6%.
France Expenditure as percentage of GDP as of 2005: 2.6%.
People's Republic of China Expenditure as percentage of GDP as of 2009: 1.7%.
Russian Federation Expenditure as percentage of GDP as of 2005: 3.9%.

IMF GDP estimates as of 2008 (in Millions of GDP):
United States: $14,264,600.
Iraq: $90,907.
France: $2,865,737.
People's Republic of China: $4,401,614.
Russian Federation: $1,676,586.

http://www.cdi.org/issues/usmi/fy01/topline.html [cdi.org]
http://www.cdi.org/issues/budget/FY03topline-pr.cfm [cdi.org]

United States FY2001 budget request: $305.4B.
United States FY2003 budget request (includes Department of Energy): $396.3B.

The US likely spent a similar percentage to other 'first world' countries in 2001 and 2003. Bloody war starts in Iraq, percentage increases. US has a very large GDP, has large military spending, but in-line with percentage except when having to deal with large-scale deployment of troops, even then, significantly less than other nations with serious external security concerns.

Iraq doesn't make nearly as much money, but spends very significant amounts on military.

France spends in-line with other 'first world' countries.

Russia spends directly in-line with US 'high' watermark.

Stockholm International Peace Research Institute figures for 2008, listed on the very same page on Wikipedia.
US world share of spending: 41.5%. (For slow people: it'd have to be greater than 50% to be 'more than the sum of all other countries combined'.

You should know better than spreading FUD on Slashdot, especially when your own link proves you were making it up. Also, that's a pretty epic fail at reading.

Also, technically, that'd be like earning with $1862 (US revenue for 2004 in billions) in your personal monthly budget, somehow spending $2338 (US expenditure for 2004 in billions), after you've already completely tapped out your savings and gone significantly into debt (accruing $7001 of outstanding debt as of 2004, yes, in billions; ~2002 was $13) of which between $305 and $636 is for the your personal alarm system and a family pet/guard dog (inclusive of food, housing, cleaning, grooming, etc, most people forget that), and you spend $18 or $21 on a weather-proofed telescope for your back porch. So...like many Americans' average spending (and I live in America, do not spend like this), the priorities are fairly strange and bass-ackwards, and going into debt. A President with an MBA probably should've done better with YOUR analogous projected household monthly budget so you don't have the bank repossessing your house.

My boyfriend loves it when people are as grossly incorrect as the parent was. He's going to be sorely disappointed that I beat him to the 'this is extremely basic math/logic' correction.

Too Long Didn't Read version: Parent is FUD, grossly overestimating US expenditure vs. world expenditure, not taking into account excessively basic math, completely ignoring charts on webpage he/she linked that state exactly what he/she said him/herself, would probably blatantly misreport your income and expenses on taxes and get you audited.

Re:Military budget is... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29466759)

$636B. [wikipedia.org] More than the sum of ALL OTHER COUNTRIES combined.

This is like walking around with $600 in your pocket and giving a bum on the street $3.

Well you know he's just going to use it to get high.

Seriously (2, Insightful)

judolphin (1158895) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465697)

I'm all for research and exploration within reason. Satellites, observation of the universe via things like the Hubble telescope, etc. to find out more about the nature of the universe we live in is great stuff.

But doesn't the federal government have more pressing issues at this time than building a Motel 6 on the moon?

P.S. Don't take the last sentence literally, please.

Nothing for our money (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29465741)

Once again, besides Velcro and Tang, what has the public gotten from the manned space program?

The Moon is Fine. We've Got Stuff to Do There... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29465767)

Lots of stuff we can do on the moon. Maybe better than in LEO. Drugs, genetic experiments, metallurgy, beamed power experiments, geriatric care, tourism...

WTF are we sending people to Mars for? To experiment with how to slow-kill astronauts with radiation?

If I wanted to blow billions on a program with almost no chance of success any time in the next century, I'd have NASA send probes to explore the asteroid belt with the goal of some day mining it for mineral resources.

Re:The Moon is Fine. We've Got Stuff to Do There.. (2, Insightful)

sean.peters (568334) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466213)

Drugs, genetic experiments, metallurgy, beamed power experiments, geriatric care, tourism...

  • Drugs and metallurgy: to my knowledge, this stuff is better done in microgravity than in low gravity.
  • beamed power experiments: what possible advantage does the moon offer? I don't even know why you'd need to leave the surface of the earth for this. If you needed a vacuum environment, earth orbit is a lot easier (and cheaper) to get to.
  • geriatric care, tourism: never going to happen. For one thing, your geriatric patients would have an awfully tough time with the g-forces involved in liftoff. Then you'd also have to figure out the economics - it's really, really expensive to get people into space. It's even more expensive to have them live there. No one is going to be able to afford to pay for the nursing home care on the moon. As far as tourism goes, you'd never get more than a couple tourists a year - no one could afford it. You can't even economically build a hotel on earth with that kind of occupancy rate, and hotels on the moon would be exponentially more expensive.

Lots of stuff we can do on the moon. Maybe better than in LEO.

The thing is, it's not good enough to be able to do it on the moon. It's not even enough that we could do it better than in LEO (which I doubt is true anyway, for most things). It's got to be more cost-effective to do it on the moon than somewhere else... and that just ain't happening any time soon.

$12 trillion (4, Insightful)

Carl_Stawicki (1274996) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465795)

The national debt is almost $12 trillion (for reasons legitimate or not, depending on your views). As cool as the thought is, the moon can wait. The best thing the gub'ment can do at this moment is to not interfere with private space endeavors.

What an awesome way to spend $3 billion a year. (0, Flamebait)

vistapwns (1103935) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465811)

For probably half of that, you could develope nanorobotics and AI and we could go to andromeda if we wanted to. But no let's blow a huge mountain of cash on quaint rockets (that blow up 1 in 50 times) to send a few guys to the moon and collect rocks or whatever. If people are going to be that stupid why don't you just put me in charge? I could do way better...

Re:What an awesome way to spend $3 billion a year. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29466033)

ha ha. ha.

on a related note (2, Interesting)

jollyreaper (513215) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465819)

Could the ISS use excess electricity from the solar panels along with a tether to maintain altitude?

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

The basic idea is you drag the tether through earth's magnetic field. If you pull power off of it, your orbit lowers. If you run energy back through it, your orbit rises.

My only guess is they don't have a lot of excess capacity on the ISS and so lack the power to run with this.

Re:on a related note (2, Interesting)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466331)

My only guess is they don't have a lot of excess capacity on the ISS and so lack the power to run with this.

They have the spare power - they don't have the luxury of being able to remain in one attitude long enough for the tether to make a difference. (Not to mention that many of the engineering aspects of tether propulsion remain elusive and unsolved.)

Why do we even go into space? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29465863)

The moon and Mars are cold dry rocks and anything interesting is prohibitively far away. We should have given up space travel when relativity made it clear that we can't actually go anywhere interesting.

Why don't people listen to experts? (4, Interesting)

socrplayr813 (1372733) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465865)

As a result I think that good public policy would tell us that there needs to be a compelling reason to scrap what we've invested our time and money in over the past several years.

Compelling? Like an expert panel saying 'this won't work'? What's the point of assembling experts to make recommendations if we're not going to listen to them. I can't say I didn't expect it, but I think it's just pathetic that there apparently wasn't any serious discussion of the alternatives. There may be benefits to going back to the moon, but most of what I've read lately leans toward "I want to relive the glory days when space was new."

If this finally gets somebody to throw NASA some more funding, then I suppose that's something, but the cost of manned missions is staggering. There's so much interesting and useful science that could be done without having to spend (waste?) resources on consumables and redundant systems for supporting life.

I actually had high hopes that someone would listen to the recommendations... Reminds me of a poker player that doesn't know how to fold a hand. Sure, we have a chance to get something out of it, but I don't see that the pot odds [wikipedia.org] are not worth it for manned missions right now.

(Sorry for the poker stuff... no car analogy came to mind)

Terrible timing (2, Insightful)

neurogeneticist (1631367) | more than 5 years ago | (#29465963)

This is all happening at such a horrible confluence of bad timing for NASA. Stimulus package + healthcare overhaul + war + recession = bad time to convince taxpayers to fund moon trips. I support most of the above initiatives, but at the end of the day, there really is only so much money to go around.

Re:Terrible timing (1)

JWW (79176) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466523)

You've got that right. What really pisses me off is that of all those things, if it were up to me, I'd fund NASA first.

Also, the other thing that pisses me off is that NASA's only looking for and extra $3 billion a year. All these other programs have hundreds of billions of dollar pricetags.....

By the way, it is my sincere belief that if NASA whithers away and dies, there will be no amount of money that can be spent by the government that will be enough to encourage students to be more interested in science and engineering. NASA's PR woes mirror the PR woes of the science and engineering community.

What about money? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29466065)

Seeing as how the democrats have continued to fund the Iraq and Afghanistan wars since gaining the majority in 2006 and the fact that Obama has expanded the war into Pakistan, I don't see how this is going to happen.

The US government operates somewhere between 700-800 military bases in about 150 different countries.

Also, the government keeps bailing out criminal Wall Street firms.

All of this together is trillions. So where does any money for some moon mission come from? Don't expect congress and the senate to do anything, if they really gave a damn, would the military be spread across the globe and all the losses Wall Street was supposed to receive have been socialized while their profits privatized?

In addition to current problems, at some point in the near future there will be a medicare and social security crisis because money is running out. Nasa moon missions are just not on the horizon.

We do not have the money (3, Interesting)

SuperBanana (662181) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466073)

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5iWWPT8cAUpUCsmOZoABze-6XhwTAD9ALBNU00

We're in the deepest recession since 1930, and have run up $1.38 Trillion in debt, people- and that's not all from the two wars we're fighting.

The administration is forecasting a $9 Trillion budget deficit [nytimes.com] within ten years, a figure the Congressional Budget Office agrees with.

"Only $3BN more" you say? That's a +15% increase of NASA's budget. "Oh, only 15%", you say. Well, guess what happens after 1000 federal agencies and projects have come to you asking for "only 15% more"? I can't even find a figure for the number of items in the federal budget, but I'm guessing it falls around 10,000 or more.

Yes, military spending is an order of magnitude larger. That is not an excuse to increase spending for another agency; it is a reason to reduce military spending. That is something that is not easily done, given how dependent our country has become on military spending to employ people, and congresscritters are very allergic to "defense" cuts in their district.

We need to be trimming from the federal budget, not adding to it any more, except for the most critical needs. Space exploration, while fascinating and a great boost for nationalism, is not a critical need.

Re:We do not have the money (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29466397)

Military spending is over 2 magnitudes larger.

Re:We do not have the money (1)

Stevecrox (962208) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466413)

Your knee jerk response is typical of whats gotten us into this mess. If America's budget is anywhere near as messed up as the UK's there are places that desperately need trimming and area's which should have increased funding. Ignoring the fact that massive sweeping cuts to public services will only cause the economy to fall back into recession.

Lets take the NHS (not popular in the US I know) our biggest problem is the amount of management layers that have been injected into hospitals over the years and often the UK government will simply give money to a hospital with the proviso that it needs to be used. Its biggest problem is there are more managers than front line staff (mostly thanks to Labour). Simply trimming the budget will hurt the front line service and not solve the problem. Over the next few years those management layers need to be removed and the red tape should be killed off. Its not that its state funded thats the problem its that the current government have created (for whatever reason) a lot of non jobs that need to be removed.

Its even worse in the civil service, I have a friend who recently completed her masters in geography and got a job in the environmental services department. She couldn't tell us what her job was and admitted in her office of 7 people there was only really work for 3 people. But the office did at one time need 7 and had only recently got the authorization to get that number.

I wish the UK had a worthwhile endeavor like NASA although it sounds like NASA has been abused much like the NHS has been over here. I've been waiting for UK parties to say how they plan to remove NHS and civil service bureaucracy. But none will agree to do that, simply saying your going to cut public spending by canceling projects grabs headlines and makes you look good

I grew up with the space program, but... (1)

gestalt_n_pepper (991155) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466349)

Frankly, it's gotten dumb and narrow. There's nothing on the moon that *matters.*
.
How about making long-term livable space environments (i.e. containing viable organic ecologies) and not some dimwitted ground-dependent space station? How about making economically viable solar power in near earth orbit and selling it at a profit? How about setting up a few thousand square miles of adjustable mirrors to reversibly control global temperature?
.
Uses for space like these *matter*. F*** the moon. F*** all that grandstanding political BS.

they musta found oil on the moon (1)

CHRONOSS2008 (1226498) | more than 5 years ago | (#29466651)

/.

Jim Brown (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29466771)

Only 3 billion? Why not give NASA 100 billion, I mean it's only money. We have completely lost our minds. 12 trillion in debt today and est. 25 trillion in 10 years and we want to go to the moon? You've got to be kidding me.

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