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NASA Trying To Reinvent Their Approach

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the handle-my-lightweights dept.

NASA 123

coondoggie writes to tell us that NASA has started down the road to reinvention with the addition of four new committees to the external advisory group that drives the agency's direction. "The four new committees include Commercial Space, Education and Public Outreach, Information Technology Infrastructure, and Technology Innovation. The council's members provide advice and make recommendations to the NASA administrator about agency programs, policies, plans, financial controls and other matters pertinent to NASA's responsibilities. In the realm of commercial space, NASA has been pushed by outside experts to leave low Earth orbit flights to other aerospace firms. The Review of United States Human Space Flight Plan Committee report recently took that a step further in recommending: A new competition with adequate incentives to perform this service should be open to all US aerospace companies. This would let NASA focus on more challenging roles, including human exploration beyond low-Earth orbit based on the continued development of the current or modified NASA Orion spacecraft."

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Sorry (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29955064)

But NASA ought to just go away.

For most of it's life it has been a public works project and now, like every other gubmint program it is a monster of inefficiency and waste.

If what it is SUPPOSED to do is so important then some company will do it.

Re:Sorry (-1, Troll)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955176)

Better though to fund NASA and Take from Welfare than vice versa, Of course all of the congress critters ever want to do is take from NASA to pay white trash to sit around all day...

Re:Sorry (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955194)

What it's supposed to do is stuff that's valuable to humanity, but costs a lot of money and isn't expected to make a profit. This is essentially the role of any government organization: Do the things that will benefit everyone, but that businesses are unwilling to take on because there isn't enough money in it.

Low Earth Orbit is now at the point where we can see possibilities for how to make money there, so the time is right to hand it over to commercial interests. However, there is no particularly obvious or near-term profit motive for exploring other planets. Thus, if we want it done, NASA is going to have to do it, because nobody else will (except other governments).

Of course, in order for NASA to do that sort of stuff, it needs a lot more money than it has now. Personally, I'd like to see NASA get at least 2% of the total budget, which is more than 3 times what it gets now, but I seem to be in the minority on that one.

Re:Sorry (1)

ThreeE (786934) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955604)

"...stuff that's valuable to humanity, but costs a lot of money and isn't expected to make a profit."

You have a very strange definition of value. Not surprisingly, you use it when you are spending other people's money.

Re:Sorry (2, Insightful)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955620)

Oh there's profit in it... The asteroid belt alone has enough resources to sustain humanity at current rates of consumption for 150 million years or more. Space travel entails a very large barrier to any competitive entities surviving long enough to be profitable. The X-prize provided a near term reward which spurred tons of research into cheap sub-orbital space flight and now there's some rudimentary space industry that can be used to get the ball rolling. The next step is obtaining resources for LEO cheaply and that likely means making use of volatiles and such from NEOs. Then once that is all set up, we can start making real progress into expanding into places that aren't as easily profitable without all of the space infrastructure already in place. Really, I think what NASA needs most is competition through x-prize style incentives. Just a few hundred million a year might be enough to do the trick. It's comparatively tiny compared to their 17 billion$/year budget but it'll probably get things really going.

Re:Sorry (1)

Geoffrey.landis (926948) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956030)

...Space travel entails a very large barrier to any competitive entities surviving long enough to be profitable. The X-prize provided a near term reward which spurred tons of research into cheap sub-orbital space flight and now there's some rudimentary space industry that can be used to get the ball rolling.

Well, fond as I am of the X-prize and the various entities who are trying to make a go at suborbital tourism, it's worth pointing out that they are going after the sub-orbital tourism market. The vehicles making hops to 100 kilometer altitude for sightseeing are pretty cool, but there's a vast delta-V from there to orbit-- these vehicles are not "going to get the ball rolling" if you're talking about orbit: they don't get to orbit, don't get close to orbit, don't get anywhere near to getting close to orbit.

Re:Sorry (1)

suomynonAyletamitlU (1618513) | more than 4 years ago | (#29958044)

"There's profit in it" generally means "There's profit that we can expect to see in a reasonably near timeframe."

There are hundreds of billions of dollars tied up in the space shuttles. The Apollo program took similar investment. Neither of those programs was ambitious enough to do return with any resources in greater quantity than is useful for research. How many thousands of tons of rocks would you have to return from the astroid belt to be worth a single, solitary, measly billion dollars? This discounts the much higher amounts of fuel necesary to transfer your ship to and from the astroid belt, let alone with that same tonnage of cargo.

This is not to say that it can't be done or that it can't be done for a profit but until there is significant investment in the means to get there and back, or some amazing advance in energy storage/generation and thruster capability, or both, it can only be done by someone who doesn't have to sheepishly return to investors for more money.

Re:Sorry (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29959422)

Oh and a typical asteroid is something like 500x as rich in Gold and various precious metals than Earth is due to the nature of their formation. The idea is to start with the really easy profit niches like space tourism and precious material mining and go from there. We don't need to bring back ore from the asteroids, just the finished processed materials. That way fuel is conserved and the profit of the whole operation is significantly increased. The single largest problem in terms of colonizing space is getting from Earth's surface to LEO. The trip from there is relatively easy using solar/nuclear powered alternative engines like plasma, ion etc. That's why I said that there were significant barriers to competitors entering the field. The problem is that most people think that there aren't any niches that exist between what we have now and solar colonisation. First the space tourism then infrastructure to support that tourism and then precious material mining and processing on asteroids then we can get to utilising cheaper resources. It's just a matter of doing it all in several small, manageable steps.

Re:Sorry (1)

Princeofcups (150855) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955684)

Of course, in order for NASA to do that sort of stuff, it needs a lot more money than it has now. Personally, I'd like to see NASA get at least 2% of the total budget, which is more than 3 times what it gets now, but I seem to be in the minority on that one.

Yeah, way too small. There's no reason that we are not spending at least 10% of the GLOBAL budget on space exploration.

Re:Sorry (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955884)

Of course, in order for NASA to do that sort of stuff, it needs a lot more money than it has now.

Whatever gives you that idea? NASA doesn't seem to be using its current funding effectively, what would it do with three times the funding?

Re:Sorry (2, Informative)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955976)

Look at their budget, and the funding handed down from Congress. A lot of their funding comes with strings attached, saying they have to use it for X, where X is usually some educational program in a Congressperson's district. Not saying education programs are bad, but NASA isn't always in control of its budget.

Re:Sorry (2, Insightful)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956492)

Education projects are a minuscule portion of NASA's budget. The real problem is that NASA of the past has not seriously attempted to put forth a credible manned space development/exploration plan. It has willingly served the interests of the NASA supply chain - the tail wagging the dog.

With a little backbone and support from the President, NASA could hold its own against both Congress and the contractors. Instead, NASA hasn't shown that it can handle its current funding responsibly much less three times as much budget.

Re:Sorry (1)

fireslack (1039158) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956322)

What it's supposed to do is stuff that's valuable to humanity, but costs a lot of money and isn't expected to make a profit. This is essentially the role of any government organization: Do the things that will benefit everyone, but that businesses are unwilling to take on because there isn't enough money in it.

That may be true of the former Soviet Union and some modern European countries, but but the United States government was established to "form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity..." What you said may be A role, but its not a major role and certainly not "essential".

Re:Sorry (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29956940)

However, there is no particularly obvious or near-term profit motive for exploring other planets. Thus, if we want it done, NASA is going to have to do it, because nobody else will (except other governments).

There are lots of interesting resources which could be mined from (near) space. For example, private industry could set up a Lunar base and mine Helium-3 from the upper layers of regolith. It could make incredible strides in fusion, which in turn creates energy and can make profit.

Hell, I'm sure you could automate the entire process and hardly have a need for real, live, human beings there. Maybe a one-person operation, aided by computer systems.

Re:Sorry (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#29958478)

Personally, I'd like to see NASA get at least 2% of the total budget, which is more than 3 times what it gets now, but I seem to be in the minority on that one.

Not by me you're not. Ask people that tell you that we should redirect NASA budget into "social programs" and more welfare (and there are many such myopic individuals) how NASA's funding compares to the DOD's. Most times I've asked that question the typically ignorant answer is "oh, about equal, I'd say." Explain how miniscule the total outlay for space exploration (expensive as it is) is in relation to our defense spending, and sometimes eyebrows go up.

Quick summary (4, Insightful)

DoofusOfDeath (636671) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955112)

Slashdot user A: This is great!

Slashdot user B: What a waste of money! We may not even need unmanned missions to space, let alone manned missions. Let's fix earth, instead.

Slashdot user A: You jackass. We need to be able to colonize other planets, either because (1) we such at conservation, or (2) eventually we'll get hit by a killer asteroid, or (3) eventually the sun will go out / go boom.

Slashdot user B: Those are all very speculative or a long time off. We have more pressing problems here and now.

I just wanted to get that preliminary stuff out of the way.

Re:Quick summary (5, Insightful)

icebrain (944107) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955204)

Slashdot user C: Did it ever occur to either of you that (a)the same technology we use to colonize other planets can help fix climate problems on earth, and (b) trashing earth is not a prerequesite for space colonization? Indeed, running conservation and colonization programs in parallel can help preserve earth rather than destroy it! That's why you go out and colonize, specifically so you don't have to use up all the earthbound resources.

Re:Quick summary (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29955288)

Like develop giant corks to plug volcanoes? Or smaller corks to plug cow butts? Give me a break. "Climate change" is a naturally ocurring process and us puny people are no match for the friggin' planet.

And while I'm at it what happened to my first post that basically said to dump NASA since it is basically nothing more than a poorly run public works project? I suppose the /. censors don't want their happy parade rained on.

Re:Quick summary (2, Informative)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955306)

Your post got modded to -1. Log in and set your browsing threshold to -1, and you'll see it.

Re:Quick summary (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955960)

"Climate change" is a naturally ocurring process and us puny people are no match for the friggin' planet.

Oh, come on. Who here is dumb enough to get in a boxing match with the GROUND? We get the Earth to do what we want it to do. And our power and knowledge grows by the day while the Earth remains a large rock.

Re:Quick summary (1, Offtopic)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955304)

Slashdot User D, writing to his Republican congressman: "You know, you can kill lots of people with big rockets..."

Congressman: "Get me the Pentagon! Fly me to Johnson Space Center! We gots to have a meeting about this!"

Re:Quick summary (1)

EvilBudMan (588716) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955404)

Slashdot user D: Who cares?

Re:Quick summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29956108)

I thought going out to colonize was so you could go somewhere once Earth is completely used up and unable to support life anymore not to keep it livable...

Re:Quick summary (1)

IronChef (164482) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956990)

Slashdot user D: Humanity isn't worth saving. Exploring space just means we will ruin more of the natural world. Better that the rocks spin endlessly through the void unsullied by our touch.

(I can't stand that guy.)

Oh, I will take the role of user E: GREAT. More committees. That'll help.

Re:Quick summary (2, Funny)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955220)

Slashdot user C: You both suck, we should be dumping money into a big hole and burning it, screw the earth and space, kill everyone.....

For those who haven't seen it... (3, Funny)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955424)

Re:For those who haven't seen it... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956032)

"If you love America, you throw money in its hole". - Great line.

Re:Quick summary (1)

CopaceticOpus (965603) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956150)

Slashdot user D: And who is going to pay for this big hole? The taxpayers?

Re:Quick summary (2, Informative)

s73v3r (963317) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955996)

Slashdot user Q: CmdrTaco's penis is sooooo small.

Re:Quick summary (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29956356)

This is incorrect.

The truth is, your Slashdot user B would not be a true Slashdotter, but some nefarious changeling, put into place to fan the flames.

What could go wrong? (4, Insightful)

Plasmic (26063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955116)

More committees. Way to think outside the box.

If they want to reinvent their approach, perhaps they should start by not creating multiple committees every time they want to accomplish something ... or am I forgetting the long track record of success by new committees at already-bloated government organizations?

Re:What could go wrong? (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29955152)

More committees. Way to think outside the box.

If they want to reinvent their approach, perhaps they should start by not creating multiple committees every time they want to accomplish something ... or am I forgetting the long track record of success by new committees at already-bloated government organizations?

It's not like it's rocket science. ... oh wait.

Re:What could go wrong? (0, Offtopic)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955208)

Maybe they need more Meetings, I am sure a consensus solution could be reached if we add 4 more hours of meetings each day...

Re:What could go wrong? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29955324)

and, of course, The Eliminator!

Re:What could go wrong? (2, Funny)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955398)

Managing large organisations is hard. You can't just say make it so and expect anything will get done. Getting even one thing done in a four year period in a large organisation like NASA will take an enormous amount of organisation and planning.

Re:What could go wrong? (4, Insightful)

Plasmic (26063) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955544)

Yes, but important decisions at large organizations are made by CEOs or other key executives (CMO, CTO, etc.) with clear lines of responsibility and accountability, not by establishing several dozen committees. Only in government (and poorly-run, similarly-bloated conglomerates) is this kind of bureaucratic, process-obsessed operation characterized as "reinventing their approach".

Don't forget to separate execution of the plan from development of the plan. It will clearly take thousands of people collaborating to execute on the vision of "go to the moon by 2017" -- but deciding what the top priorities are while keeping in mind resources, timelines, and feasibility, simply does not require four more committees at NASA.

Decision by committee [Re:What could go wrong?] (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29955918)

Yes, but important decisions at large organizations are made by CEOs or other key executives (CMO, CTO, etc.) with clear lines of responsibility and accountability, not by establishing several dozen committees. Only in government (and poorly-run, similarly-bloated conglomerates) is this kind of bureaucratic, process-obsessed operation characterized as "reinventing their approach".

In fact, all the important decisions about NASA are made not by "several dozen" committees, but by exactly two committees; one a committee of 100 members and the other a committee of 435 members-- the Senate and House of Representatives, respectively.

This is something you constantly have to keep in mind: NASA reports to Congress. (In theory they're an executive agency, and report to president, but in practice the "who pays the piper, calls the tune" rule is effect: congress writes the checks, and thus they have ultimate say in what gets done, or doesn't get done.) It really doesn't matter what the other committees or managers say, or what they want, or what decisions they make. Congress makes the decisions.

Re:What could go wrong? (5, Interesting)

demachina (71715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955630)

NASA is a hopeless entrenched bureaucracy. Forming more committees, and writing reports, is what they do when threatened, its their counterpart to the old west circling of the wagons when attacked by Indians.

As an aside here is a fascinating article [counterpunch.org] by an ex CIA agent on why the CIA has exactly the same disease NASA has and why they are dysfunctional too. Apparently most CIA agents spend most of their time angling to making a jump to the private sector where they can get rich by using their insider knowledge to get lucrative contracts.... from the CIA.

NASA is pretty similar. There are very few scientists and engineers left at NASA. They are mostly contract monitors who shuffle paper from pile to pile to get money from Congress to award contracts to the private sector and the contractors do all the actual work. Of course contractors tend to be flakes, and are just in it to milk as much money as they can. During Apollo there were a lot of contractors but there were actual engineers and scientists at NASA who did stuff, not so much any more.

When socialism and free markets compete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29957560)

As an aside here is a fascinating article [counterpunch.org] by an ex CIA agent on why the CIA has exactly the same disease NASA has and why they are dysfunctional too. Apparently most CIA agents spend most of their time angling to making a jump to the private sector where they can get rich by using their insider knowledge to get lucrative contracts.... from the CIA.

NASA is pretty similar. There are very few scientists and engineers left at NASA. They are mostly contract monitors who shuffle paper from pile to pile to get money from Congress to award contracts to the private sector and the contractors do all the actual work. Of course contractors tend to be flakes, and are just in it to milk as much money as they can. During Apollo there were a lot of contractors but there were actual engineers and scientists at NASA who did stuff, not so much any more.

A government providing service is fine. People buying service themselves is often fine. Which one of those two you prefer might vary but both can work in right conditions and both have their own pros and cons... But people paying taxes so government can buy the services from a private company is a recipe for horrible end results. There are few exceptions in the modern history.

When a government provides a service, the point is: Service is seen as so crucial that nobody should be left without it. Government tries to offer best service possible and can do it with low resources as it doesn't need to make profit. Adding private companies to the mix ruins it: Now government doesn't pay the doctors to provide best service they can but rather government pays to companies who pay to doctors. Companies take a cut of profits so it costs more tax money for government to provide the service and in addition to this, the doctors aren't now paid by entity that tries to provide good service but rather by entity that tries to make profit (and providing good service might or might not be a method for such).

Right wing supporters hate that kind of a situation. Left wing supporters hate that kind of a situation. But left wing supporters won't let government to stop providing service and right wing supporters won't allow government to hire more people directly. Democracy is a funny thing.

Re:When socialism and free markets compete (1)

demachina (71715) | more than 4 years ago | (#29958562)

"Right wing supporters hate that kind of a situation. Left wing supporters hate that kind of a situation. But left wing supporters won't let government to stop providing service and right wing supporters won't allow government to hire more people directly. Democracy is a funny thing."

True. One of the problems is once someone gets a civil service job its nearly impossible to fire them if they are incompetent or lazy which is one reason the right wing hates them. Civil servants resemble unionized workers in that respect. If they were unionized like air traffic controllers before Reagan fired them all that was like triple reasons for the right to hate them. Its a hard problem.

All I know is whatever NASA is doing its not working at least as far as the manned space program goes. I was pretty shocked after the Aries 1-X launch to see that they aren't planning the Aries 1-Y launch until 2014 and it still wont even be close to the real thing. That means they are managing one launch every 4-5 years. Not sure how anyone approved this program with that kind of schedule. Either they really don't have sufficient funds, which they probably don't, or there contractor system is completely dysfunctional, which it probably is.

It would have taken about 50 years to do Apollo if they had gone the speed Ares is going. NASA went from Mercury-Redstone 1 to Apollo 11 in nine years, though admittedly they had massive amounts of money to spend. Mercury did 21 launches in two years, and they were starting from scratch mostly with slide rules instead of computers. Gemini did 12 launches in 2 1/2 years. Apollo did 12 launches in three years through Apollo 11.

NASA equals... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29957744)

NASA equals National Air and Space Administration

with accent on Administration. Only managers and bean counters get a paycheck from NASA. Everyone else is an outside contractor.

NASAs first priority (-1, Flamebait)

scorp1us (235526) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955150)

Should be to develop and test asteroid detection and avoidance systems.

That freeze dried ice cream is useless when we all get vaporized on impact.

The sad thing is these systems are under funded and we have no credible defense against an asteroid. But we're looking to go to Mars! Yay!

Think of the children. America is so rich they bombed the moon. Tell a kid in Africa we bombed it to find water, when he has the same problem right here on earth.

Once we find out if asteroid detection, deflection or destruction is trivial and reliable, then we can go on to mentally masturbating about colonizing other bodies.

Of course, we could do both in parallel, as complementary solutions to the same problem but my point is NASA is all over the board.

Re:NASAs first priority (1)

Tumbleweed (3706) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955270)

my point is NASA is all over the board.

Dude, don't worry about it. I'm sure NASA has a room full of guys whose job is just to think shit up!

Re:NASAs first priority (0, Offtopic)

jameskojiro (705701) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955280)

Free-ze Dried Ice Cream for some!!!!

Asteroid Arcade Games for everyone else!!!!

Re:NASAs first priority (2, Insightful)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955332)

Jupiter does a pretty good job as our defense system. There have been a few asteroids on possible collision courses with Earth, and they all got sucked up by our bigger brother.

Asteroids are not our biggest concern. Just because one wiped out the dinosaurs doesn't mean that one will wipe us out too. We've evolved a long way to survive in harsh conditions.

In all honesty, I can't even imagine a practical asteroid evasion plan short of evacuating Earth. Armageddon and other Hollywood flicks have lead us to believe that we have the power to blow apart masses thousands of kilometers wide, which I really don't think we do.

We find an asteroid heading towards us thats the size of the moon - there won't be much we can do to stop it.

Re:NASAs first priority (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955456)

I can't even imagine a practical asteroid evasion plan short of evacuating Earth

It is highly unlikely we will get hit by anything the size of Ceres. The biggest risk IMHO is from comets in the range 500 metres to about 70km in diameter. If we can see objects like this coming we should be able to evacuate the impact site ahead of time. Doing that will take remote sensing (something we already do well) and politics (which we are slowly getting better at).

Re:NASAs first priority (2, Interesting)

whathappenedtomonday (581634) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956198)

If we can see objects like this coming we should be able to evacuate the impact site ahead of time.

Hm... up to 70km you say - that's quite unlikely, results would be quite devastating [arizona.edu] , even if you were 8000km away from the impact site (but depending on quite a few parameters of the object/impact).
Give this a try, maybe you'll reconsider: http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/impacteffects/ [arizona.edu]

Re:NASAs first priority (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956484)

If we can see objects like this coming we should be able to evacuate the impact site ahead of time.

Hm... up to 70km you say - that's quite unlikely, results would be quite devastating [arizona.edu] , even if you were 8000km away from the impact site (but depending on quite a few parameters of the object/impact).

Give this a try, maybe you'll reconsider: http://www.lpl.arizona.edu/impacteffects/ [arizona.edu]

Sure but half way around the earth is 20000km, so evacuating a circle 10000km around the impact site doesn't seem impossible. Easier than moving everybody to the moon or mars, anyway. I am assuming we can give ourselves 20 or 30 years warning with good quality remote sensing.

Re:NASAs first priority (1)

whathappenedtomonday (581634) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956926)

evacuating a circle 10000km around the impact site doesn't seem impossible

I doubt that. Take any location in the US and calculate the population within a 10000km diameter. Consider NOLA during/after Katrina (how many days did it take the DHS to bring water to the Super Dome?). I wish you were right, but your optimism seems to be fed exclusively by Hollywood. Sorry.

Re:NASAs first priority (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29957066)

evacuating a circle 10000km around the impact site doesn't seem impossible

I doubt that. Take any location in the US and calculate the population within a 10000km diameter. Consider NOLA during/after Katrina (how many days did it take the DHS to bring water to the Super Dome?). I wish you were right, but your optimism seems to be fed exclusively by Hollywood. Sorry.

I am not saying it is easy and I am not assuming we could do it today. Moving populations around on the Earth is much easier than moving them off the planet, which is the idea I was originally responding to. If we forecast a strike in India for example I expect we would then see decades of fighting over land to the north. Nukes and all. Not pretty.

Re:NASAs first priority (1)

Xiroth (917768) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956870)

Armageddon and other Hollywood flicks have lead us to believe that we have the power to blow apart masses thousands of kilometers wide, which I really don't think we do.

Th-thousands of kilometres?! Good god, how many rogue planets are there? Earth is only 12,000km across.

No, the asteroid that is likely to have wiped out the dinosaurs and created the K-T boundary was estimated to be about 10km in diameter, and that impact is estimated to have had the power of about 100 trillion tonnes of TNT - about 2 million times the size of the largest nuclear bomb ever tested (Wikipedia link [wikipedia.org] ).

No comment on whether that would be feasible. It's within the realms of possibility with current technology, but would be incredibly, ridiculously difficult. Still, saving the species may be worth it.

Re:NASAs first priority (3, Funny)

swanzilla (1458281) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955400)

Once we find out if asteroid detection, deflection or destruction is trivial and reliable, then we can go on to mentally masturbating about colonizing other bodies.

I presume the NASA memory foam will come into play here. We should be good to go.

Re:NASAs first priority (2, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955428)

Should be to develop and test asteroid detection and avoidance systems.

Okay, sure. In order to detect incoming asteroids, it's going to need to be able to scan the entire sky. It can't do that now, and doesn't have the funds to develop the capability to do that. Once it has the capability, it has to figure out a way to neutralize the threat of any incoming asteroid. Since we can probably rule out the possibility of altering the orbit of the planet to get out of the way, we need to either alter the orbit of the asteroid, or destroy it, and we're going to have to do it well before it reaches Earth. So, how do we alter the course of or destroy something that big that far away? Well, we're going to need a big fucking rocket, one that's big enough to travel that far and carry whatever big-ass thing we decide to use to render the asteroid harmless.

Of course, asteroid detection and avoidance is really boring. No one grows up wanting to fuck up an asteroid. However, lots of people grow up wanting to visit other planets. So, we could probably get some funding if we decided to go exploring other planets instead. But what will we need to explore other planets? Probably a big fucking rocket, one that's big enough to travel that far and carry whatever big-ass thing we decide to put on the other planet.

So, I say we fund planet exploration. That way, we get people excited about space again, and we also develop the big fucking rocket you need to take care of those pesky asteroids.

Re:NASAs first priority (4, Funny)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955668)

No one grows up wanting to fuck up an asteroid.

Ha, not so! Inspired by many hours playing asteroid, to this day I love the idea of blasting the fuck out of asteroids! NASA's Deep Impact mission was just about the coolest thing ever! Comet, asteroid, planet, the freaking moon, whatever. I say bring it on!

In fact, if you made the (granted somewhat dubious) assumption that the portion of my allowance that I spent on pretending to blow shit up in space as a kid should be reflected by the federal budget, then not only would the entirety of NASA be devoted to building rockets for fucking up asteroids and other heavenly bodies, NASA would be about 80% of the budget. The DoJ would be operating on a shoestring budget. Sorry guys, I know you have stuff to blow up here, but Titan is acting cocky and needs its ass kicked!

Re:NASAs first priority (1)

Chris Burke (6130) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956848)

Also apparently if this came to pass, the Department of Justice would be responsible for blowing shit up on earth...

Reinvent the approach (2, Insightful)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955262)

Let's form some committees to help our advisory group figure out how we can fix this gigantic bureaucracy!

I've got a clue for them. They need to follow some simple rules.

1. Rockets should look like cocks
2. People should only ride on liquid fuel rockets.
3. If you're the booster designer, double the requirements.

4. Success!

Explanation:
1. Rockets should look like cocks. Stacked vertically, not side by side. Both shuttle failures resulted from the orbiter, tank, and boosters being in a side-by-side configuration. If the thing had been stacked vertically, there's no need to worry about ice hitting what's next to you, or fire burning the attachment to what's next to you.

2. Liquid fuel rockets are way safer than solid fuel rockets. It's going to be damn hard for astronauts to escape alive if they abort anywhere near a full blast solid fuel candle. Maybe do a hybrid solid, but what we have now is a fucking hazard to the astronauts and ground crew. Just ask the Brazilians. Oops, they're fucking DEAD. booom!

3. The moon mission was saved by the genius Nazi von Braun increasing the Saturn V weight capability well above the requirements. The payload turned out to be a bloated mess compared to initial projections, but the Saturn could handle it. A huge problem was averted. Compare that to the current Constellation program, where the booster was designed to lift what the payload guys said they'd need. And now that the payload has gained weight, there's some serious doubt that Ares will ever be able to fulfill the design requirements. FAIL.

Re:Reinvent the approach (2, Informative)

Profane MuthaFucka (574406) | more than 4 years ago | (#29958490)

It's AMAZING that somebody with moderation points thinks this is offtopic.

It's over (1)

R2.0 (532027) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955268)

It's like the original formulation of Godwin's law: once an organization faces problems by immediately forming a committee, no further solutions are possible.

Definition (4, Funny)

rossdee (243626) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955386)

Committee: The only known form of life with 6 or more legs, and no brain.

(From the notebooks of Lazarus Long

Re:Definition (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955518)

IQsum = 1 / ((1 / IQ1) + (1 / IQ2) + [... ] + (1 / IQn))

Re:Definition (1)

Katatsumuri (1137173) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955950)

IQ1 = 99; IQ2 = -100; IQsum = Profit!
Maybe that's the kind of hidden gems they're shooting for with all these committees?..

Take an english class, slashdot. (0, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29955402)

NASA trying to reinvent ITS approach. NASA is singular, not plural.

Re:Take an english class, slashdot. (2, Insightful)

Leebert (1694) | more than 4 years ago | (#29958132)

Could be that the submitter uses British English. They generally treat collective nouns as plural.

Re:Take an english class, slashdot. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29959274)

Sorry, I was just talking to this group of architects.

NASA (4, Funny)

ISoldat53 (977164) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955422)

A press release in search of a mission.

If they really want to get humanity into space... (3, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955436)

They would do well to put the moon and Mars on the back burner and focus on the asteroids. Then set aside a few hundred million a year in x-prize style incentives open to *everyone* not just US companies.
Focus on alternative propulsion and energy systems as chemical engines are not going to get us very far. Get NASA out of Earth to LEO and focused toward targets that are farther out and harder to reach. Let SpaceX and friends take care of launch costs to LEO. Focus on utilising robotic missions where possible and reserve human space flight for in depth study where the time lag/AI insufficiencies become problematic. Get hacking on the problem of orbital space debris- that will be a major problem if we're going to be going to do anything outside of our atmosphere.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (2, Insightful)

ianare (1132971) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955682)

Then set aside a few hundred million a year in x-prize style incentives open to *everyone* not just US companies.

Cooperation is one thing, but we shouldn't rely on other nations to provide us with space access. It would be bad for the economy : US funds and technological advantage going to other countries.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (2, Insightful)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955746)

Then set aside a few hundred million a year in x-prize style incentives open to *everyone* not just US companies.

Cooperation is one thing, but we shouldn't rely on other nations to provide us with space access. It would be bad for the economy : US funds and technological advantage going to other countries.

Deep space exploration should be an international activity, if only because it is so expensive.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956600)

Deep space exploration should be an international activity, if only because it is so expensive.

First, it doesn't have to be "so expensive". Nobody, including the US, has tried to reduce the cost of doing things in space. Second, the US would end up paying most of the bill anyway because it already spends most of the money on space exploration and development. So international cooperation would mean maybe something between a modest reduction to a large increase in cost (as in the International Space Station) in exchange for putting other countries in somebody's critical path. It's not the solution for expensive space projects that you think it is.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (0, Flamebait)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955818)

THere is nothing stopping a US company fro mwinning the funds, they're just competing with the rest of the world for those funds. If the US companies are worth a damn they'll get the prize, if not.. well there's no right to profit only the right to try to make a profit. The US should stick to what it does best and stop this silly protectionism in its tracks. It does us no good to put artificial barriers to stop other countries from stepping in where we aren't as efficient. It just helps the inefficient industries here to live when they really shouldn't. Just take a look at our auto industry if you want to see an example of the bloated corporations that were allowed to exist because of protectionism.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956122)

What protectionism is in place? The only thing that we have is that any space tech can not be shared with China. The last time we did, that tech made it into their missiles FASTER than it made it into the rest of their civilian rocket line. As it is, SpaceX has numbers that is lower than anybody, and that is before China starts mega-dumping on the market (they already are dumping).

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956348)

What protectionism is in place? The only thing that we have is that any space tech can not be shared with China.

ITAR restrictions (where pretty much anything, however mundane, related to satellites is classified as a munition) are actually rather more problematic than you describe for space industry, although there fortunately seems to be some progress on that:

http://thespacereview.com/article/1503/1 [thespacereview.com]

A decade-long concern for the US space industry has been export control regulations. Since satellites and related components were put under the jurisdiction of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), space businesses, including manufacturers or commercial satellites and their subsystems, have raised the alarm that the stricter ITAR rules were hurting their ability to sell to customers outside the US, even to close allies. Companies, industry organizations, and their supporters have sought for much of this time to at least partially roll back those changes to enhance their competitiveness.

While the drumbeat for reform isn't necessarily as loud as it was a few years ago, thanks in part to procedural changes that have reduced the backlog of, and waiting time for, export license applications, there is now real evidence of progress towards the reforms the industry has sought. A section of HR 2410, a State Department authorization bill that the House approved in June, deals with export control and includes a number of key reforms that the industry has been seeking.

"It accomplishes many, if not almost all, of the things that people in the export control reform movement have been dreaming of for quite a while," said Mike Gold, director of the Washington office of Bigelow Aerospace and a leading advocate for export control reform, during a presentation at the COMSTAC meeting last week.

One key component is what Gold called a "review and revision" of the US Munitions List (USML), the compilation of components that are subject to ITAR. The bill would require a review of at least 20 percent of the USML every year for five years to determine if items should be removed from the list. After the five-year period the review would start over to allow updates based on advances in technology.

Another aspect of the bill would give the President the ability to remove satellites and related components from the USML, although it would still not allow the export of such items to China. The bill language would also require the public release of what are known as commodity jurisdiction determinations, when the State Department evaluates whether a specific technology belongs on the USML or not.

The good news for export control reform advocates is that the bill has passed the House. The bad news, as Gold explained, is that the Senate has taken no action on the bill yet, and there's no indication when--or even if--they will take up the legislation before the end of the next year. "To be honest, we haven't even heard any good rumors as to if this is something that rises to the level of priority" that the Senate will take action on, Gold said.

Key to the future of the bill is Senator John Kerry (D-MA), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "If Senator Kerry chooses to prioritize export control reform, it most likely will get done," Gold said.

Gold also noted there is a review of export control policy going on within the new administration, although that may be of limited effectiveness for the space industry since the inclusion of satellites and related components on the USML was done in legislation and therefore must be undone that way. However, he said that the actual law does provide some "wiggle room" for the administration to change how it implements that law, if it so chooses. "If there isn't a legislative fix, there is still the possibility--certainly not a strong possibility, but the potential anyway--of the executive branch doing something helpful unilaterally," he said.

To some, it might appear the administration is already doing that, with its presidential determination in September that shifted authority for approving missile and space technology exports to China from the President to the Secretary of Commerce (see "How competitive is commercial launch?", The Space Review, October 19, 2009). However, Gold said that this was not a significant shift in policy. "There has been no substantive change whatsoever in our export control policy relative to China, or space and missile technology as a whole at all," he said. "The only thing that was done was virtually a superficial change" and was not an indication of any potential changes in export control policy.

While export control reform efforts continue, Gold noted he is about to have published a law review article that argues that ITAR itself is unconstitutional as a prior restraint on free speech. "If you were to challenge ITAR under the First Amendment, it would collapse like a house of cards," he claimed. "That's another reason for reform: we need a regime that could pass constitutional muster."

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956580)

ITAR is not protectionism. It is about refusing to allow technology to fall into another nation's hand that can use it against western nations. There is a difference. Yes, some of the companies, mostly Bigelow, are upset. What is interesting is that all involve China wanting access to our tech. NONE of the restrictions are about allowing any western or even most of the 3'rd world nation from being near this.

I have to say that I think that Obama really screwed up by moving ITAR to be under Dept. of Commerce. THat does not even make sense. ITAR is about security.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956650)

ITAR is not protectionism. It is about refusing to allow technology to fall into another nation's hand that can use it against western nations.

That is protectionism. Plus even western nations like the UK are blocked by ITAR.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956758)

Protectionism is the economic policy of restraining trade between states, through methods such as tariffs on imported goods, restrictive quotas, and a variety of other restrictive government regulations designed to discourage imports, and prevent foreign take-over of local markets and companies. [wikipedia.org]
Read it. ITAR is NOT about tariffs, restrictive quotas, and anything that discourages imports, or prevents take-overs. ITAR is used to prevent tech from being exported so that it gets into unfriendly hands. Are their times that it is restrictive? Yup. I saw it used in places at Boeing, NASA, Bell Labs and even Watson labs, as well as several other companies that I thought we were overly restrictive. BUT, this is NOT PROTECTIONISM. We had sat, aviation and general software tech that was not allowed to go to various companies because they wanted to use that tech to sell to China, or did not have safeguards in place. OTH, I have NEVER seen us deny it to western nations unless it was considered part of a black project, as long as the nation/company had decent safeguards.

It is only with China screaming that they want access to our tech (and they want it freely) that ITAR is suddenly pushed as protectionism. Total bunk.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956914)

ITAR restrains trade between the US and foreign countries. Hence, it is protectionism.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29957998)

And yet, all nations have equivalence to itar. Heck, China now prevents exporting of any tech and even rare earth mineral. UK, france, Germany, Canada, Australia, and even Israel have ITAR equivalence.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29958220)

And yet, all nations have equivalence to itar. Heck, China now prevents exporting of any tech and even rare earth mineral. UK, france, Germany, Canada, Australia, and even Israel have ITAR equivalence.

And? It's still protectionism even if everyone and their kid sister engage in it.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956382)

Yes what you're proposing is protectionism. Any measure designed to artificially tilt the balance toward local industry against foreign competition is protectionism. You're just justifying it with national security and anti-dumping policies on which you are wrong on both counts. There's a difference between covert military tech and the civilian tech prizes I'm talking about here. You're not considering the advantages to rapid development of space flight tech by whomever is able to do so. You're just throwing out reasons why we shouldn't bother.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956514)

First, X-prizes are NOT protectionism. Protectionism is about protecting your own existing companies. An x-prize is about DEVELOPING NEW MARKETS. If you chose to develop it for your nation, how is that wrong?

Dumb question, but why are you not encouraging other nations to hold x-prizes? If these other nations are so advanced, then they will do it as well. Heck, nearly all of the western nations, Russia, as well as China, are in MUCH better economic shape than is America. What is wrong with THEM doing this? As it is, I see EU and China doing lots of development without involving American companies. Is that protectionism? How about EU and China trying to block Google, while funding their own national search engines (to be sold by private companies)? Is that protectionism?

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#29957130)

I am trying to tell you that we need everyone on this planet to be involved not just the US. I never said that other countries shouldn't have x-prizes of their own, all I said was that it was short sighted to restrict the x-prize competition to our own industry. The tech will be developed faster if countries create x-prize style incentives that are international in scale. Geeze... Everyone and their brother wants the tech to themselves it's just amazing that anything ever gets done on this planet.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956534)

First of all, this is in no way protectionism. Those funds were forcibly extracted from US taxpayers. There's no reason the recipients of government funding shouldn't be limited to US corporations or individuals. The concept of economic protectionism in a free market has no relation to government expenditures of tax monies.

Furthermore, even if it were protectionism, the US has obligations to it's own citizens over foreigners. Protectionism is written right into the US Constitution, and helped to build this country into the world power it is today.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (0, Flamebait)

Paranatural (661514) | more than 4 years ago | (#29955710)

If you opened it to anyone, all of the conservative pundits (Beck, Coulter, O'Riley, Limbaugh) would cry and cry about how much Obama hates America because he let everyone bid.

Great IDEA (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956012)

China has 4 trillion spare dollars sitting around. They should offer up an X-prize to the world.

Re:If they really want to get humanity into space. (1)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956290)

They would do well to put the moon and Mars on the back burner and focus on the asteroids.

This is basically the finding of a report by Wesley Huntress (see "The Next Steps in Exploring Deep Space" [iaaweb.org] ), who was just named as head of the NASA Science Advisory Committee.

Then set aside a few hundred million a year in x-prize style incentives open to *everyone* not just US companies.
Focus on alternative propulsion and energy systems as chemical engines are not going to get us very far. Get NASA out of Earth to LEO and focused toward targets that are farther out and harder to reach. Let SpaceX and friends take care of launch costs to LEO.

Bretton Alexander, the newly appointed head of the Commercial Spaceflight Advisory Committee, is also President of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, a group which includes private spaceflight companies [commercial...flight.org] like SpaceX, Armadillo Aerospace, Scaled Composites, and the X Prize Foundation. I suspect he'll be advocating pretty much exactly the sorts of things you describe.

The Most Reliable Approach: (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29955484)

is to use Energia [energia.ru] , makers of Soyuz.

Yours In Baikonur,
Kilgore Trout

NASA (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29955566)

There are a lot of video about NASA's new moon vehicles on http://www.disclose.tv/ Just search for NASA there...

yikes, anti-gravity suits available, for some... (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29955600)

“Atlas Shrugged” was published 52 years ago, but in the Obama era, Rand’s angry message is more resonant than ever before. Sales of the book have reportedly spiked. At “tea parties” and other conservative protests, alongside the Obama-as-Joker signs, you will find placards reading “Atlas Shrugs” and “Ayn Rand Was Right.” Not long after the inauguration, as right-wing pundits like Glenn Beck were invoking Rand and issuing warnings of incipient socialism, Representative John Campbell, Republican of California, told a reporter that the prospect of rising taxes and government regulation meant “people are starting to feel like we’re living through the scenario that happened in ‘Atlas Shrugged.’ ”

Rand’s style of vehement individualism has never been universally popular among conservatives — back in 1957, Whittaker Chambers denounced the “wickedness” of “Atlas Shrugged” in National Review — and Rand still has her critics on the right today. But it can often seem, as Jonathan Chait, a senior editor at The New Republic recently observed, that “Rand is everywhere in this right-wing mood.” And while it’s not hard to understand Rand’s revenge-fantasy appeal to those on the right, would-be Galts ought to hear the story Anne C. Heller has to tell in her dramatic and very timely biography, “Ayn Rand and the World She Made.”

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/01/books/review/Kirsch-t.html

Re:yikes, anti-gravity suits available, for some.. (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956390)

Advertising off topic anti-Rand books through Slashdot? Here's a counterview [nationalreview.com] to the above NYT article.

Adam Kirsch reviews Anne C. Heller's new Ayn Rand biography in this weekend's Book Review. His piece offers this nugget about John Galt's long radio address in the novel Atlas Shrugged: A Random House editor told Rand that "if she gave up 7 cents per copy in royalties, she could have the extra paper needed to print Galt's oration."

Kirsch calls the agreement a "sign of the great contradiction that haunts her writing," observing that "giving up her royalties to preserve her vision is something that no genuine capitalist . . . would have done."

But Rand's decision to exchange money -- a portion of her royalties -- for extra paper is capitalism at work. Rand bought something that had financial value to her: the ability to disseminate her idea in the form she desired.

Without such an elegant capitalist mechanism through which to make this trade, the alternative solution would have been messy and unsatisfying. Rand would have had to give up part of Galt's speech or try to find a new publisher.

Here we have a controversial figure, Ayn Rand, who lived a life full of contradiction and hypocrisy and the best that the author of the book review in the post above could come up with was an incredibly strained story about her forgoing a bit of royalty payments for something of monetary value. Controversial? Come on. It should embarrass the NYT to have hired such an idiot.

Also, given that the above "grass roots" advertising probably came from Random House (publisher of the Ayn Rand book), maybe we should stop buying their books for a little while.

Finally, to complete this little Slashdot drama/troll, let's review [campaignmoney.com] (courtesy of Google) Anne Heller's 2008 campaign contributions for 2008: $500 to MoveOn.org, almost $5,000 to two Obama campaign funds (there are three other Anne Heller's contributing to those funds), and $200 to the Democrat Party. I wonder why she felt the need to contribute so much (about five times as much as the maximum in any previous year) while writing a book about Ayn Rand who would have abhorred any of the destinations for the contributions that Heller made. I guess that settles the question of whether there was any BIAS in Heller's biography.

Amazing (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29955952)

that so many idiots want to Kill NASA and America's space program when China just announced that they are going to militarize Space [spacedaily.com] . I mean I can understand if Chinese are hoping that America will kill its program. BUT, there are appears to be Americans that want this.

Re:Amazing (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956006)

What brought this whine on? In case you haven't noticed, NASA and "America's space program" is a national embarrassment. At some point, if we want to do something about the Chinese or anyone else who wants to do stuff in space that we don't like, we'll need real space development and exploration not just dump money on the NASA supply chain.

Re:Amazing (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29956302)

What brought it on, is that so many are trying to KILL NASA, not improve it. Read the previous posts including the first one. Bush and the republican congress did a great deal of damage to NASA, but that does not mean that it should be killed. The Augustine panel had great suggestions on how to IMPROVE NASA, not kill it. And yet, so many want to take us out of space, even though China is now gearing up to militarize space.

Re:Amazing (1)

khallow (566160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956446)

I replied to the first post. It was the whine. Nothing about people wanting to kill NASA.

There's always some louts wanting to kill off NASA for starving kids, to weaken the US military, or whatever. Some of them even are US citizens. And some of those might even vote on occasion. That leaves a small number of whiners in my view with any credible influence.

The real threat as I see it is the low utility per dollar of manned NASA projects. As long as NASA is about lining pockets and protecting jobs, it'll be extremely vulnerable to the people who would kill NASA.

New committee heads (4, Informative)

FleaPlus (6935) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956168)

The linked article didn't seem to mention it anywhere, but it's worth noting who the heads of the new committees are:

http://www.spaceref.com/news/viewpr.html?pid=29537 [spaceref.com]
http://www.spacenews.com/civil/091030-bolden-revamps-nasa-advisory-council.html [spacenews.com]

* Commercial Space Committee: Bretton Alexander [commercial...flight.org] , current head of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation
* Education and Public Outreach: Miles O'Brien [wikipedia.org] , pretty much the best and most clueful space journalist around
* Technology and Innovation Committee: Esther Dyson [wikipedia.org] , well known for her tech entrepreneurship work
* (IT Infrastructure Committee chair seems to be pending)

All in all, they seem to be rather good picks. It also seems that Wesley Huntress [wikipedia.org] has been chosen as the chair of the Science Committee. In 2004 he was head of a study, The Next Steps in Exploring Deep Space [iaaweb.org] , a rather fascinating report proposing a space exploration infrastructure which would initially focus on Lagrange points and Near-Earth Objects, quite similar to the Flexible Path option proposed by the Augustine Commission.

Not a very promising start... (1)

rickb928 (945187) | more than 4 years ago | (#29956512)

Generally, when I see a 'reinvention' start off with new committees, I get sleepy.

Then I look around to see where the ad hoc committee in charge of making sure nothing gets done is.

When I find that, I gauge if there is any chance of disbanding that committee...

If not, time to move on.

Failsauce nasa (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#29957106)

India and China, homes of cheap and mass-produced, are busy going forward and they'll take the lead if NASA keeps on reiterating what a great shop it was in the seventies. It wasn't, Feynmann showed conclusively and in great detail what a structurally shoddy shop it was, but there wasn't anything better. Now? All budget cuts are more than deserved, for it's a dedicated pointy-hair support shop drenched in aint-we-cool sauce to the point of religion. In fact, you could cut it down to a ten person government grant approval office for commercial space flight challenges and you'd come out ahead.

To fix that, it's not difficult to see where they should be going:

- Go metric. All the way. Don't quibble over a couple hundred milllion as an excuse to preserve past failures. Go metric, you're well behind 95% of the world here. How is that pushing the technology forward?

- Put a proper drive behind low earth orbit taxiing. The space shuttle was a neat idea 30 years ago, but 20 years ago it became clear it wasn't so much cheaper than the usual rockets up to the point that now it's actually cheaper to launch those rockets again than launch the space shuttle. Why are the low earth orbit taxi rides more expensive than premium gold plated limo rides? Something is fishy here.

With both of the above there's room to look outside and push achievements again. But to make real progress there is something more to be done:

- Cut the crap, the red tape, the bullshit, the top-down design and millions of botches to make it fly despite management fiat. Engineer bottom-up, skunk works style. Make it work quickly, then make it work good enough to achieve the thing you wanted to explore, then make it work well. Lather, rinse, repeat. Do all that well before it's started to rust, thanks.

As Burt Rutan said: If we're not killing people, we're not pushing hard enough. There is a reason why it's called the bleeding edge. But who wants to die in an exploding space shuttle because of an engineering defect that could've been fixed a score or more years ago? Or through sheer aging of the materials? So make space exploration wort dieing for again. By making the taxi rides to work reliable and safe.

Exciting times! (1)

Chris Gunn (1336847) | more than 4 years ago | (#29957684)

NASA was just following the Bush Directive. "Go to Mars".

Having a man stand on Mars is not that exciting.

I was more excited by the interesting rover designs Nasa had come up with. The In-situ resource utilisation has potential. A technology worth developing.

Basically, what is interesting/inspiring is increasing our capabilities.

This is what I would like to see NASA focus on. I was very pleased to see the Augustine panel suggest that Nasa forget Mars/Moon for now, and focus on the tech for longer duration manned space missions.

They actually thought about things. They promoted the Shuttle derived heavy lift, which, apparently would be so cheap to develop, you'd have to be insane not to do it. They promoted in-orbit refueling stations.

After that the United Launch Alliance put out plans to support these objectives, that had a lot of engineering work and imagination put into them. I hadn't seen so much imagination and rational planning in many years.

Fantastic stuff!

It is now time for NASA to consider all these events, and come up with a plan. That is what these committees are for. There are some big questions. What should NASA do, and what should they contract off to the ULA/spacex etc.

Another obvious project would be extra-solar-system probes using VASIMR engines.

- I am so thankful for Dr Chang-diaz

I'm looking forward to see how it works out on the ISS orbit keeping project.

Duplication of effort (1)

scanrate (470160) | more than 4 years ago | (#29958460)

How about a World Space Agency instead of this massive expenditure and duplication of effort. [wikipedia.org]

Oh, right. That would make sense.

Actually, it would not (2, Interesting)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 4 years ago | (#29958556)

The reason why NASA has problem (as does RSA and somewhat ESA), is that all have settled on one design and stick with it. What is needed is multiple designs and development. Only by doing numerous approaches will better be found.

Space Leads To Colonies Leads To Rebellion... (1)

Xin Jing (1587107) | more than 4 years ago | (#29959416)

And we all know what happens over time when a government extends itself beyond a sustainable threshold for too long - rebellions. Factions. Unrest. New states and governments that represent the people and their values. The classic example of establishing an independent base away from Earth is that one day if it survives, it will become a separate entity and demand recognition. In the past, the most technologically advanced and financially powerful countries in the history of the world had sent out ships to discover and tame a new land and guess what happened - things were never the same again.

Governments don't want colonies because of the inherent cost and effort to establish and maintain them over a protracted time. When American was new, for awhile it was a money-grab and several nations participated because it was a frontier where companies could pay others to do the hard work and extend their reach and hopefully deepen their pockets. All of those efforts were reduced to war in order to stop a new state from forming.

Historically, the human desire to acquire wealth has always run headlong into the need to exploit others to obtain that wealth and power. When a sustainable space-faring colony is finally created, we'll get to learn again that those who are in direct control will have plans of making that colony their own by establishing a new government to protect and provide for the people better than the governments that sent them there. In order to promote the ideals of wealth and power, the value of human rights gets violated.

And then begins the arms race, the effort by the governments of origin to minimize the loss of assets and sovereignty, the efforts by the separatists to establish a new place for themselves and ultimately be accepted as a distinctly different people with the right to shape their own destiny. Once people get the taste of freedom and the chance to claim their own space and write their own chapter in the pages of history, there's no turning back.

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